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Sunday, December 27, 2009
Review: Searching for Pemberley by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Author: Mary Lydon Simonsen
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Fiction, historical, romance
Trade Paperback, 496 pages
Book Source: Sourcebooks
Set against Regency England, World Wars I and II, and postwar England, three love stories intertwine in surprising and fateful ways.
American Maggie Joyce, touring Derbyshire in 1947, visits, Montclair, an 18th century Georgian country house, that she is told was the model for Jane Austen's Pemberley. More amazingly, the former residents of the mansion, William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison, were the inspiration for the characters of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.
Through letters, diary entries, and oral history, Beth and Jack Crowell, a couple who lives in the nearby village of Crofton, share stories of the people they say inspired Jane Austen. They also tell their own love story, made difficult by their vastly different backgrounds—she was one of the social elite while he was the son of a servant. When their son, Michael, travels home from his RAF station in Malta, Maggie may have just found her very own Mr. Darcy.
This book is much more than a Pride and Prejudice re-imagined, or continuation of the story. It takes the view that Austen was inspired by real events, relates that inspiration, and along the way tells the story of people living and growing up in England during two world wars. The author also explains Maggie's background and her life growing up in a coal mining town. Again, another tough way to live, but people did it and still do.
This story is fashioned in such a way that the reader forgets they are reading an Austen inspired book. I became wrapped up in the stories of the characters. The British are quite tenacious and let nothing stand in their way. I was transported to the past. Between food rationing and the immigrant experience in America, it became quite clear to me, that I am lucky to be living now. Simonsen clearly did her research, and relates these historical experiences into a great story.
There are indeed three love stories, and possibly four if you count Maggie's relationship with an American airman. Through him the reader learns what it was like to be a bombardier. It is not pretty folks. It is very sad and it amazes me that these young men were able to come back home and lead normal lives, for the most part. As a matter of fact, Maggie has two men vying for her heart; both airmen, one American one British. Two men in uniform, my word.
The only negative I have, is that in the beginning of the story, I was a bit confused between the characters from Austen's story and the real life inspirations. Simonsen does provide background on Austen's characters and who they are in real life, with some background in case you haven't read the original P&P. I was still a little confused at times but it passed quickly.
Overall this was a very enjoyable and engrossing story. I lost myself reading this story, and empathized with each and every character, along with their trials and tribulations. I just wanted to make them all a cup of tea.
My Rating: 98/100. Loved it!!!
Thanks to Danielle from Sourcebooks for my review copy.
Challenges Met: Everything Austen Challenge 2009