*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author, NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: As a fussy baby, Anne was prescribed laudanum to quiet her and has been given the opium-heavy syrup ever since, on account of her continuing ill health. While Lady Catherine is outraged when Darcy chooses not to marry her daughter, Anne barely even notices.
But little by little, she comes to see that what she has always been told is an affliction of nature might in fact be one of nurture – and one, therefore, that she can beat. She finally throws away her laudanum and seeks refuge at the London home of her cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam.
Suddenly wide awake to the world but utterly unprepared, Anne must forge a new identity among those who have never seen the real her – including herself.
With its wit, sensuality and compassion, The Heiress is a sparklingly rebellious novel that takes a shadowy figure from the background of beloved classic Pride & Prejudice and throws her into the light.
In The Heiress, Molly Greeley takes a minor bit-character from Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice and gives her a life and voice all of her own.
As when Jean Rhys tells us the story of Bertha Rochester in Wide Sargasso Sea, here Greeley spins a new story with Anne de Bourgh as the heroine and retains the period and setting of the original story, whilst giving it her own style – not restricting herself to copying Austen’s prose.
I am familiar with Austen’s story of class and courtship (it is a favourite re-read!), and yet I confess to paying rarely a passing thought to poor, pale Anne… which the author clearly anticipates and reflects in the attitudes of the other characters to her protagonist too. Original Anne was merely a foil designed to highlight Lizzie Bennet’s vivacity, but Greeley’s Anne is struggling valiantly against repression from every front – maternal, societal and substance-related. The problem of opiate addiction is portrayed sensitively, yet starkly, as Anne fights her own urge to push the world away and buffer its highs and lows.
It was lovely to see familiar faces like Lizzie, Darcy and even Mr Collins and Lady Catherine – and to see them from a new perspective – but their fleeting appearances are not jarring to fans. Instead, the effect is like catching a glimpse of old friends whilst passing their windows: you are glad to see they are well, but too busy with other business to pause for long. That said, those old friends definitely don’t always show to at their best when viewed from the lonely sidelines.
There is some romance in the plot here but, while it provides a Sarah Waters-esque side plot, this is mainly a story of self-realisation and the quest for inner strength: a love story to independence and freedom. Watching Anne develop from languid and languishing, to alert and pro-active makes for a pleasant and diverting read, and adds a fresh depth of insight into an old, familiar tale.
One for Austen fans looking for additional context, or simply anyone who enjoys a strong character-driven story of self-growth.
Rarely did anyone contradict my mother—even Papa, when he was alive, avoided confrontation with her unless it was truly necessary. In that moment, I thought Miss Bennet the most marvelous person I had ever met.– Molly Greeley, The Heiress
She did not seem to find me so marvelous, however. Civil enough when we were introduced, her notice of me devolved, over the course of her visits to Rosings, into arched eyebrows and a vaguely turned-up set to her mouth. It was obvious that something about me amused her greatly, and between her clear scorn of my frailty and Fitzwilliam’s utter disregard for my existence over the course of his visit, I felt as though I were sinking into a swamp of mortification, sludgy waters closing over my head and cutting off all air.
The Heiress releases on Amazon on 7th January 2021 – pre-order your copy here.