Distress & Determination by James P. Wollak book review
book review

Book Review: Distress & Determination

Jadidsa Perez calls DISTRESS & DETERMINATION by James P. Wollak "a strong addition to the Pride and Prejudice world." Check out more of what our reviewer has to say in this Atmosphere Press novel.

Distress & Determination

by James P. Wollak

Genre: Historical Fiction

ISBN: 978-1639885466

Print Length: 456 pages

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Reviewed by Jadidsa Perez

With ornate language and an immersive historical setting, Distress and Determination is a strong addition to the Pride and Prejudice world.

James P. Wollak’s novel Distress and Determination imagines the life of the treasured Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy and their children. 

The story is centered around Frederick Darcy, a once tremulous and troubled son who is now forced to become the next Master of Pemberley after a tragic accident. As the shadow of his older, more effulgent brother threatens his confidence, he must learn to accept his new fate and become a pillar in the Darcy family. He’s challenged extensively by his overwrought siblings, his rhadamanthine father, and the demands of the estate, but he is determined to overcome it.

The novel begins with Frederick being suspended from Cambridge due to gambling and belligerence, much to the anger and disappointment of his parents. He’s further stressed over the announced return of his older brother, Henry, who is touted as the exemplar Darcy; he’s effulgent, charismatic, and overall perfect. 

Frederick’s invidious feelings toward his older brother turn into guilt, however, when Henry is involved in a fatal accident. Now Frederick is expected to be the next Master of Pemberley despite being extremely diffident, to the dismay of those around him. Despite Fredrick’s vigor to learn how to command the Pemberley estate, he’s tested by the unpredictable nature of his siblings and the aristocratic society.

I, like the author, am a devout Jane Austen fan. I have studied her works extensively in higher education, and I’m pleased to say that I greatly enjoyed Distress and Determination. The book has such ornate, classic language that immerses me into the world. Wollak has wonderful ways of describing scenery and painting the Derbyshire countryside. It all feels romantic, serene, and beautiful, even if the plot is dreary and dark.

I also really enjoyed Frederick as a main character. Readers are initially introduced to a sniveling, terrified character who feels like he has no initiative or direction. Instead of feeling frustrated, however, I immediately began rooting for him and his genuine heart. He represents a familiar feeling of being compared to an older sibling and trying one’s best to meet those expectations. His setbacks and consequent growth are fulfilling as a reader. In a way, Frederick represents an intrinsic human feeling of wanting to please but not knowing how. It is a pleasure to learn alongside him as a reader.

I also enjoyed Wollak’s interpretation of some Pride and Prejudice characters, like Caroline Bingley. She becomes a close friend and confidant for Elizabeth, which I think is a great move. Wollak presents to us an intelligent, mature version of Caroline that readers will love. I also liked that Mr. Bingley and Jane stay relatively the same and provide some comedic relief to the book.

On the topic of comedy, I did find myself wishing there was more of it in Distress and Determination. I understood and liked the direction of the book, but it does feel like a lot of dramatic scenes happen one after the other with little time to decompress. There are a few comedic scenes sprinkled here and there, and they ended up being my favorite parts of the book. I would have loved Anna Darcy to be a more regular sarcastic, humorous character rather than be blotted into the background in favor of Jane Elizabeth.

Jane Elizabeth’s tragedy is a bit overwhelming. I found myself frustrated on her behalf throughout the entire tirade, and her story in the end leaves me feeling a bit wanting. I wonder if she could have channeled her agency and stood up for herself a bit more, but still, she is an interesting character and I enjoyed her point of view.

I absolutely recommend this book to historical fiction fans or fans of classic literature. It’s captivating and fulfills so much of what I want out of an Austen-retelling.

Thank you for reading Jadidsa Perez’s book review of Distress & Determination by James P. Wollak! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.

0 comments on “Book Review: Distress & Determination

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: