Searching for Pemberley by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc.
Length: Full (496 pages)
Rating: 4.5 Books
Reviewed by Cholla
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.
An amazingly unique and engrossing tale of three love stories that spans two wars, two continents, and three couples. Searching for Pemberly begins with an American woman searching for the roots of her favorite novel and discovers so much more along the way. An historic and imaginative romance for all times.
On a whim, Maggie Joyce travels with a friend to see Montclair, an old manor house outside of London in post World War II England. Little did she know she’d stumble upon the inspiration for Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice. Intrigued, she decides to investigate more and winds up in the middle of two love stories she never imagined.
Maggie is an exciting character. As an American working in a devastated London, she is both wise and naïve. She’s experienced the war at its worst and yet is so new to being in love and having a boyfriend that she is an interesting conflict of emotions. Her character is a portrait of many women at that time in history.
During her stay in London, she meets two men who compete for her affections. The first is Rob, an American in the military stationed in London. He is her first boyfriend and long-term relationship. He is a confused and troubled man, having seen too much combat during the war. The other is Michael, son of Beth and Jack Crowell, whom Maggie happens upon by accident. Michael is a mystery to her, but kind and flirtatious. Could he be the one for her or will it be Rob? Only time will tell.
Beth and Jack Crowell are the keepers of the history of Montclair, the inspiration for Pemberly in Jane Austen’s novel. They are a couple who have been married for many years with a rocky road behind them. However, they are full of surprises and information about what Maggie most wants to know about – the real Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett. The Crowells’ are a true couple of their times. Steadfast and true, but not without their faults and mistakes.
Having never read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I was worried that I would be lost at best and bored at worst. However, Ms. Simonsen not only weaves a beautiful love story but also very craftily explains the ins and outs of Jane Austen’s novel so well that even someone who hasn’t read it will understand and enjoy the novel. Searching for Pemberley is without a doubt a must read for any fan of Pride and Prejudice or simply a fan of people finding one another, beating the odds, and falling in love.