Sunday, January 5, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: The Clergyman's Wife by Molly Greeley

The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley is a continuation of Pride and Prejudice told by Elizabeth Bennett’s close friend, Charlotte Lucas. Charlotte was the shy neighbor, plain and poor, who stepped in to soothe the ruffled feathers of Mr. William Collins after Elizabeth rejected his marriage proposal. Mr. Collins was the ridiculous, pompous clergyman who was destined to inherit the Bennetts’ entailed estate. He had a living in the nearby village of Hunsford. His patron was the insupportably haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Charlotte, destined to be a spinster, took matters into her own hands when she saw Mr. Collins was available and not difficult to catch. She was not in the least drawn to him, but saw life as his wife as preferable to being a burden on her family.

In The Clergyman’s Wife, Charlotte has a quiet, secure life and a beloved baby daughter to brighten it, but she is hemmed in by William’s fussiness, his bowing and scraping to Lady Catherine, and his unsuitability as a vicar. Reluctant to make a wrong step that would draw her husband’s nervous censure, she hesitates to discover what her role should be. She’s stifled.

Her life changes when a local man is enlisted to plant rose bushes near her house. Although the man, Mr. Travis, is a tenant farmer and not a gentleman, he is thoughtful, interesting, and interested. He’s easy to talk to and she finds herself opening up to him in a way she can’t with her husband. Meeting him leads her to start calling on the parishioners and making friends in Hunsford, finding a purpose. But the more time they spend together, the more dangerous their relationship becomes: they fall in love.

The story is lovely because it is so restrained. It is true to the time period, and the characters stay true to the spirit of the original.