Maggie Joyce is a young single woman living in London after World War II. Originally from America, she works as a typist at the War Office in London, awaiting and dreading the orders that will eliminate her position and send her home. While in England, Maggie decides to explore the setting of one of her favorite novels, Pride and Prejudice. Along with Rob, her commitment-phobic boyfriend who is still recovering from emotional wounds he received during the war, she explores England in a delightful fashion.
Maggie visits a home rumored to be the inspiration for Pemberley, the ancestral family home of Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. During her stay, she meets Jack and Beth Crowell, who seem to have an insider’s perspective on the story behind Pride and Prejudice. As she forges a friendship with Jack and Beth, they begin to share their knowledge with her, leaving tantalizing clues as to the real events which inspired Austen’s famous story. As Maggie finds the evidence more and more irrefutable, she begins to wonder about Jack and Beth. How is it possible they have this much intimate information regarding Pride and Prejudice? What is their secret?
Pemberley Remembered is historical fiction in the broadest sense. Not only does it cover Austen’s Regency England; it is a revealing portrait of World War II and postwar England as well. Any fan of either will greatly enjoy this book. However, it is also a story of romance, the likes of which are unsurpassed in today’s literary climate. I am hesitant to categorize the book as a romance, because while it is the story of Maggie and Rob and their love for each other, there is so much more that develops in the novel.
When a reader hears the title Pemberley Remembered, the first thing that comes to mind is Jane Austen’s famous novel Pride and Prejudice. Any real fans of that work will most likely clamor to read this novel; anyone who does not recognize the name Pemberley will pass it by, even after picking it up to read the synopsis. What a mistake they would be making!
Simonsen’s Pemberley Remembered is not just for fans of Jane Austen. True, a devout reader of Pride and Prejudice has an advantage due to the cavalier references throughout the book, which doesn’t contain much summary. Parts of the novel might be a bit long and drawn out as Maggie strives to find the answers behind Pride and Prejudice’s main characters and the real lives they may or may not have been based upon. So, being an Austen fan would be a definite plus (personally, I feel like a reader would have missed out on some of the most delightful parts of the book if they did not have familiarity with Austen), but not having read Pride and Prejudice should not preclude a reader from picking up Pemberley Remembered.
The most remarkable aspect of Pemberley Remembered is Simonsen’s ability to take multiple stories from completely different time periods and fuse them together into a cohesive whole. Maggie’s search for answers, Jack and Beth’s story, the horrors of war, the development of Maggie and Rob’s relationship, the story of the Garrisons and Laceys (the supposed characters the Bennets and Darcys were modeled upon), all while keeping the reader’s interest in the mysteries of the novel – it is quite an achievement. Simonsen devotes ample time to each storyline, never neglecting one for another. The result is a beautiful, full book that is not a quick read – the complicated nature of the novel does not allow for that. Instead, it is a slower, satisfying read, another rarity with books today.
Pemberley Remembered is a shining addition to the world of historical fiction. While the reader may find some storylines more interesting than others, all are well written. There are so many books based on Pride and Prejudice or about it being released right now, and many of them are disappointing at best. Pemberley Remembered is what these books should be – a novel in its own right. While Pride and Prejudice is a big factor in the book, it does not define it. It can stand very well on its own merit, and because of that, any reader will most likely enjoy this book.
Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Swapna Krishna, 2008