Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Searching for Pemberley by Mary Lydon Simonsen

GENRE: historical romance/Austen

SUMMARY: There are three intertwining love stories in "Searching for Pemberley", set against the backdrops of Regency England, World Wars I and II, and postwar England. Through letters, diary entries, and oral history, a couple in the nearby village share stories of the people they say inspired Jane Austen, and 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. Then their son, Michael, visits his parents from his RAF station in Malta, and Maggie may just have found her very own Mr. Darcy.

This novel will definitely please those readers who love to read about romance, history, family and Jane Austen. The foundations of this novel lie on Jane Austen's beloved novel Pride and Prejudice, as the protagonist, Maggie Joyce, a young American girl working in London after WW2, goes in search of the real-life characters that appear in Austen's novel. The story of Pride and Prejudice, as well as its characters, are cleverly and inobtrusively included into Simonsen's novel. The author remained loyal to Austen's characters, but changed their stories in a way that will not bother a fervent Austen lover. If anything, this fresh take on the story of Pride and Prejudice will make you love them even more.

Also, the idea is well presented and is actually completely plausible. Sometimes, I began to wonder how it would be like if Austen had actually based her Darcy and Lizzy on actual, real people that lived in Regency England. Foremost, this is a story about Maggie trying to escape her dreary hometown Minooka and trying to find true love, as well as about family (mostly the Crowells, but also Maggie's own family, the Joyces). The importance of family is, in my opinion, an important aspect of the novel. Family consists of people who share your blood, but you can also discover your second family that becomes your family in spirit. I got the message that a person is naked and alone without a family, an aspect that I also loved in Simonsen's second novel, The Second Date.The connection made to the real Darcys (the Laceys in the novel) is really delightful and enjoyable to read about.

I can say that the novel is a page-turner. There are a lot of small mysteries involved that you will just want to know about, the greatest one being how theCrowells are connected to the Laceys (Austen's Darcys). I also loved the little mysteries regarding the Crowells, especially Beth Crowell's youth and brothers. If you want to know what I'm talking about, you will just have to read this novel.

Last, but no least: the novel is also a great tribute to post-World War II history of Europe (especially London) and partly America, and also to Regency England. There are a lot of delightful details included, and as far as details about certain battles and soldiers go, I think that even men could enjoy this novel. The story runs very, very smoothly, too.

All in all, the novel features many interesting characters, their stories, and, of course, Jane Austen. I would truly like to recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys romance, history, family and Jane Austen. It is a very down-to-earth book, and a pleasure to read.


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