Title: The Clergyman’s Wife
Author: Molly Greeley
Published: December 3rd 2019
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4 stars
In this Pride and Prejudice-inspired novel, not everyone has the luxury of waiting for love. Charlotte Collins knows this well . . .
Charlotte Collins, nee Lucas, is the respectable wife of Hunsford’s vicar, and sees to her duties by rote: keeping house, caring for their adorable daughter, visiting parishioners and patiently tolerating the lectures of her awkward husband and his condescending patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Intelligent, pragmatic and anxious to escape the shame of spinsterhood, Charlotte chose this life: an inevitable one so socially acceptable that its quietness threatens to overwhelm her. Then she makes the acquaintance of Mr Travis, a local farmer and tenant of Lady Catherine.
In Mr Travis’ company, Charlotte feels appreciated, heard and seen. For the first time in her life Charlotte begins to understand emotional intimacy and its effect on the heart-and how breakable that heart can be. With her sensible nature confronted and her own future about to take a turn, Charlotte must now question the role of love and passion in a woman’s life, and whether they truly matter for a clergyman’s wife.
‘I LONG AGO determined to live my life not in noisy discontentment but in quiet acceptance.’
Since Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, this classic novel has seen many remakes and spin offs. Author Molly Greeley has released her debut novel about Charlotte Lucas, a secondary character in Pride and Prejudice. The Clergyman’s Wife is a story of love, life choices, pride, security, duty, family and entitlement. It is a gentle side accompaniment to one of our most beloved classics.
Charlotte Lucas has married for a sense of security, not true love. She is now known as Charlotte Collins, the clergyman’s wife. Charlotte is dedicated to her role as the vicar of Hunsford’s wife. She puts the needs of her parishioners above her own. Charlotte is also a hardworking housekeeper and a loving mother. Mrs Collins is a giving, patient and tolerant woman. Charlotte is also very accepting her husband’s shortcomings, as well as the pressures placed on her by the formidable Lady Catherine de Burgh. Charlotte knows that this is the life that she chose, despite the awkward relations she shares with her husband. When a local farmer befriends Charlotte and her daughter, Charlotte’s eyes are opened to friendly conversation, a natural connection and mutual respect, but also a sense of longing. Charlotte knows her duty to both her husband and her parish, but she can’t help but consider what life would be like if she had more passion in her life. Charlotte’s spirit is tested in this affable story of the life of a dutiful clergyman’s wife.
When I cast my mind back to Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice, a book I adore, I consider this fairly minor character from Austen’s book to be a loyal friend to Elizabeth, but rather plain and accepting. Molly Greeley has managed to take a secondary character of little impression and flesh her story out into a full length companion story. I am sure fans of Austen and historical fiction novels will find much to appreciate in The Clergyman’s Wife.
What immediately struck me about this novel was the clear depiction of the time period and setting in which The Clergyman’s Wife is set. We are made inherently aware of the lack of choice, restrictions, sense of duty, moral codes, marital rules and societal expectations of the time. Elizabeth and Jane Bennet managed to marry for love, rather than expectation or duty, which was rare for the time. In Charlotte Lucas, we a see a woman fearing spinsterhood and wishing to establish her own household, marriage and family. This leads Charlotte to accept the hand of marriage offered by Mr Collins. This act makes us see that for many women of this time period, love and passion was cast aside for duty.
Charlotte is an agreeable character, sometimes a little lacklustre, but ultimately I respected her decisions and movements. She comes to life thanks to the writing of Molly Greeley, who approaches her story with a sense of creativity, thoughtfulness and historical flair. The book is told from Charlotte’s sole point of view, so we bear witness to her inner thoughts and feelings. I was moved by pressure placed on Charlotte to marry for security, rather than true love. I was also emotionally drawn to an upsetting life event that occurs in Charlotte’s married life. Greeley approached this aspect of Charlotte’s life with sensitivity and insight.
Familiar characters from Austen’s classic make reappearance in The Clergyman’s Wife. I really appreciated getting to know Elizabeth, Darcy, the Bennet family and Lady Catherine de Burgh once again, from an altered perspective. It was like greeting an old set of friends in this reunion and continuation of the events of the original book. Mr Collins is just as irritating, awkward and embarrassing on the pages of this novel. I liked the addition of new characters, such as Mr Travis, who becomes a significant part of Charlotte’s journey in this story.
Greeley devotes a good deal of the novel to illuminating the role of a clergyman’s wife, a position I feel Charlotte performs with care, dedication and effort, she seems suited to this role. Following Charlotte’s story as a clergyman’s wife made me appreciate the selfless nature, sacrifices and goodwill that goes hand in hand with this position. But there was a sort of longing, melancholy, regret and isolation that shrouds Charlotte, which Greeley captures within the pages of this novel. There is definitely a strong touch of realism in this novel, which I admired.
The Clergyman’s Wife is a touching tribute to the rousing classic Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Meditative, authentic and beguiling, I appreciated the opportunity to be further acquainted with Charlotte Collins. The Clergyman’s Wife will sit well with Austen devotees, along with those who read historical fiction.
The Clergyman’s Wife by Molly Greeley was published on 3rd December 2019 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Clergyman’s Wife, Molly Greeley, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
I am offering 2 lucky readers an opportunity to win a copy of The Clergyman’s Wife. Simply leave a comment below on what you will be reading this Christmas to be entered into this great competition! Good luck!
*Competition open to Australian postal addresses only. Closes Monday 23rd December 2019, 11pm (WST).