Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Book Review: Obligation and Redemption

As I noted in my previous blog post, I have been enjoying a Kindle Unlimited subscription this summer as I way of forcing my body and mind to rest after a very stressful and over-worked year. I also shared the link to my previous post of book reviews on Twitter, and Cassandra Grafton, Abigail Reynolds, and Monica Fairview (all of whom I have become familiar with on the amazing Austen Variations where they write) all liked and retweeted my reviews as well.

And by the next day, I had two more authors of variations on Pride and Prejudice offering to send me books! I accepted, of course, and was surprised that the first book sent to me was one that I had already chosen as my next book to read on Kindle Unlimited! And it was one of the best variations of Pride and Prejudice I have read yet.

Here is the review as I have posted it on Goodreads and Amazon on Monday:


I have read over 300 variations of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and Georgia McCall's novel Obligation and Redemption is one is definitely in my Top Five Austen-based novels. I think that out of all of my reviews, I've only given a handful of "5" ratings to variations of Austen's novels, saving that esteemed number of perfection for classics such as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice itself. But if I had a "6" rating available, I'd give it to this book.

This is not a light and fluffy variation; it ventures into the deep, dark depths of the human soul and stays there for quite a while; hope seems distant at best and impossible at worst. Obligation and Redemption is for lovers of angst, and, for that reason, I simply couldn't put it down. In fact, I lost a whole day of grading and lesson prep on Saturday because I had to know what happened next and how this twisty-turny plot was going to somehow resolve. At times, resolution seemed absolutely impossible.

McCall's Darcy is darker than we see in most depictions of Austen's famed hero. I noted several outraged Darcy fans when I perused the reviews, but I thought that this Darcy was far less perfect and far more human, and I liked him all the better for it. I enjoyed not seeing Darcy fawning over Elizabeth from their earliest meetings; I thought his disdain and distrust were far more natural reactions to the overall situation for a man of his position and pride. He is suspicious of Elizabeth's motives from the very first and thinks the worst of her at almost every opportunity. The time it takes for both Darcy and Elizabeth to admire and trust one another seems realistic, especially given the various plot twists that cast serious doubts on the merits of the other.

And Elizabeth is not depicted as perfect, either; she has her obvious failings of temper and understanding, but she is the more forgiving of the two--and more forgiving of her own mistakes and prejudices. The experiences she undergoes would have been the ruination of many a delicate gentlewoman, but Elizabeth is strong, and despite all the forces aligned against her, she fights bitterness at the difficulties of her situation and attempts to find contentment despite the fact that a single act of kindness has apparently ruined her life.    

Christian elements of sin and redemption are woven into this novel, but not in the obtrusive or sickly-sweet manner often seen in Christian literature. It's a subtle theme, one that shouldn't be a bother to most non-Christians but one which Christians should greatly appreciate. But in the climax of the plot, Darcy has what can be compared to a modern Road-to-Damascus moment in which he, like Saint Paul, realizes the extent of his sin; as a result, Darcy returns to Pemberley a changed man. We can't help sighing with relief as Darcy finally recognizes his hypocrisy, his unmerited pride, and even his unconscious cruelty as he vows to become a man worthy of a loving wife.

Many evil machinations provide plot twists that keep us guessing throughout the book. Obviously, as a variation of Austen's romantic novel, we know that Darcy and Elizabeth will eventually reconcile and fall in love, but the strength of this particular variation is that one impediment after another keeps Darcy and Elizabeth from loving and trusting one another. They have a long, difficult journey to respecting and loving one another, but it's a journey made all the sweeter by the many woes they've endured and fears they've conquered.

My only wish for this book was that we could have enjoyed a couple more chapters of Darcy and Elizabeth's happiness together near the end. After so much angst and on-the-edge-of-my-seat drama, I would have liked to have basked in their love just a wee bit longer; the ending of the book would have been even more satisfying.  

I look forward to re-reading Obligation and Redemption often in the years to come; it has already claimed a treasured place in my library and definitely in my heart. It's brilliant, unflinching, and so heart-rending; in fact, I caught myself reaching for the tissue box more than once over these 500+ pages. For me, reading this lengthy novel was well-worth the time; I was rather sad when the book ended. Obligation and Redemption is one of those rare books that cause us to sigh in satisfaction when we finish it...and then forces us to flip back to the first chapter and immediately start reading it again.

Yes, it's that good.  


Reading with you,

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