A Lie Universally Hidden is my first read from Anngela Schroeder except her short story called Winter’s Awakening, which was my favourite from the anthology: Then Comes Winter.
You can start a book in many ways, but my favourite is when the author starts in medias res, with a character talking to another. When the characters are talking, it feels I’m part of the story immediately. The prologue of the book is spot on! It’s a dialogue between Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Anne Darcy not long before the latter’s death. Hundreds of emotions alternate while you read it. You would like to be in the same room and shout at them; you would like to prevent the premise. The fact that Lady Catherine is horrible is the icing on cake. I love it! I love all the characters. My personal favourite is Kitty Bennet’s sudden, but understandable change. Kitty has a lot of potential and I think Ms Schroeder was able to her justice. I always thought that except Lydia, Mary and Kitty are more like their father than their mother. After all, Mary reads a lot and finds comfort in books, just like Mr Bennet. It is indifferent that the book is religious or philosophical. Kitty was always following Lydia, because she was close to her in age and probably she thought that Mrs Bennet might see her too. What Anngela did with her is a very stunning twist in the plot and her friendship with Georgiana is one of the best parts of the story. By the way, for a change, in this story Lydia is more sensible than her mother, which makes her more interesting and likeable.
James Hamilton, is an interesting new character. In the beginning of the story you cannot not like him, maybe also feel pity, but for the second part of the book he has changed. Actually, I’m not convinced he has changed, but more like the author withholded some information in the first part and revealed in the second, so we think he has changed, when he hasn’t.
I can’t really explain, but in the first 20-30% of the book, I felt that Elizabeth’s words were strange, almost uncharacteristic, at the same time, my favourite dialogue is when Darcy and Lizzy talks about accomplished ladies. The author doesn’t quote or repeat the original, but comes up with her idea which is true to Austen and her characters. Tiny thing, but well done! By the time Elizabeth set Mr Hamilton straight, she is definitely herself.
A wonderful scene is when -again 🙂 – Elizabeth and Darcy are in Mr Hamilton’s estate, Ashby Park in the library. It reminded me of Shakespeare. Darcy talking to himself loudly enough for Elizabeth who is ‘hiding’ to overhear it. Darcy sounded like Hamlet and Elizabeth like Beatrice in Much ado about nothing.
I’m afraid, Ms Schroeder made Darcy sexier than he was by making him play on the bagpipes. Yay!
I have found something which could have been avoided. Ms Schroeder came up with a perfect idea to expose Lady Catherine without using the original letter, and it would have been enough. I can’t imagine why Lady C. did not burn/destroy the original and there is also no explanation for it, so I consider it as a mistake, although it does not take away from the book’s value.
Again, it’s a little change, but it makes a difference, when the author writes about some rooms in the Darcy House. Usually it’s referred by the name of colour the room is painted, like green room, yellow room, etc. In this case, Ms Schroeder has an eye on details and considering we sort of know Anne Darcy, Darcy refers to the rooms as her mother named them, for e.g. Wood room, Sunshine room…
She also makes the characters play ‘Condor or Courage’, which we might know as ‘Truth or Dare’. It may seem just a game, but in terms of the plot and writing, the Anngela Schroeder managed to make the book more fascinating and avoided using cliches.
As the prologue was spot on, I have to say the ending is right up there with the very best as well. However I feel the epilogue is a bit rushed, the last sentence of the book is top draw. Great book and an excellent author!