The three colonels is the perfect sequel to two of the novels written by Jane Austen, Pride and prejudice and Sense and sensibility, which is not only just a beautifully written Regency love story, but also a great historical novel. This is possible because the events are held at the time when Napoleon, escaped from Elba, rekindles the conflicts on the continent, conflicts that will culminate in the battle of Waterloo.
The main characters of the opera are Colonel Brandon, Colonel Fitzwilliam and the original character of Colonel Buford, who, when they begin to enjoy the joys of domesticity, are summoned to war. Co-stars are their wives: Marianne, Anne and Caroline.
The characters are very well characterized and the right space is given to each of them. In fact, less space is reserved to Colonel Brandon and Colonel Fitzwilliam, since they are figures already known, than to Colonel Buford, a new character that needs to be better developed. He immediately becomes an interesting character because he is presented as a man with a bad reputation but who has many traits in common with the Mr Darcy we are in love. Of him I liked in particular the fact that, despite having the hauteur of Darcy, he doesn’t mind the formalities and goes straight on his way, to get what he wants. While Colonel Brandon is described mostly in familiar surroundings – the sweetest scenes are precisely those who see him with his daughter and his wife -, Colonel Fitzwilliam acts in a playful but direct way, both as regards the family business than war.
Marianne, Anne and Caroline have a great personal growth, a change, and they begin to act like ladies and not as girls, becoming, in the little space dedicated to them, real heroines. While Anne begins to assume responsibilities from an economic standpoint, Marianne understands what it means to be Mrs Brandon and begins to protect those who are under her jurisdiction.
There are also, albeit for brief appearances, many other characters from the works of Jane Austen, like the Darcys (Fitzwilliam in particular is often used as an expedient to resolve some situations), the Elliots, the Ferrars. Even there was also a reference to lady Metcalf, which denotes a great knowledge of the works of Austen from the author. I was very pleased to meet again the figure of Denny, particularly because it is more elaborate than in Pride and prejudice. Some space was also given to Mary Bennet, who, though not completely, looks noticeably improved. The only character that puzzled me was Mr Collins with his sudden change of course.
The narrative moves nicely between the events that are related by the point of view of each of the main characters, becoming in this way almost a choral novel.
The strong point of the book was just that, telling more than one story at the same time, it involves the reader in all and never gets him bored. In novels that use this structure, usually authors always alternate interesting parts to boring ones that the reader can read quickly for returning to those interesting, but here the storytelling was so balanced that there hasn’t been a boring scene or a not addictive one. In addition, the author describes with a male point of view the world of Jane Austen, and it is stunning that this does not affect in any way the narrative, even in the most intimate scenes, but rather gives something sensual and never seen to the writing, at least for me, in other variations. There are even some paragraphs in which we can read the thought of Napoleon himself. I appreciated, as a lover of languages, the presence of many languages in the book, and in particular of the message they convey in a certain love scene.
The theme of war is very strong in the storytelling. I admit that the idea of reading a book that would combine the beauty of the Regency era to the horrors of war excited me very much, and I am so glad that the novel has not disappointed my expectations. The historical part is really well taken care of, I could really imagine the war; it’s highly visible the passion in storytelling, and all the informations and the characters actually existed, such as the Duke of Wellington, made sure that the book could even teach something to his reader, that is the best thing that a novel, not for educational purposes, can do. The only flaw was the lack of a dedicated scene to the end of the war and to the thoughts of those who stood on the field and could finally celebrate. Another thing that could make this book truly perfect would have been to put into the final Captain Wentworth, I knew that it would be implausible, but I hoped it anyway until the end.
At the end of the book, through the fate of two charactersI immediately thought if the author was going to insert in its history even religious morality, as if the characters who had made a few mistakes had a proper punishment for their sins. Imagine my surprise when reading the biography of the author I found out that he is a devout catholic!
I’m really glad I read this book, and I’m sorry I left it on the shelf for a long time. I have not enough words to describe how wonderful it is, you have just to live it. What is sure is that even if the other works of Mr Caldwell are similar to this, he has earned a new passionate reader.