Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Searching for Pemberley by Mary Lydon Simonsen -- Austenesque/ Historical Fiction

After war was declared in 1941, Maggie Joyce left her small coal mining town in eastern Pennsylvania hoping never to return. Since the end of the war she has been working for the Army Exchange Service first in Germany and now in London. Her time in London is probably almost up, so when her friend Pamela, a Derbyshire native, reveals that she grew up near an estate, Montclair, that is rumored to be the home of the real life model for Mr. Darcy, Maggie jumps at the chance to visit Montclair, the setting of her favorite book, and learn more about the history of the Laceys. Her search introduces her to the Crowells, a local family who know more than anyone about the real story behind the novel. Beth Crowell shares with Maggie the story of Elizabeth Garrison and William Lacey through their letters and journal entries. Maggie is fascinated by the story and quickly becomes an honorary member of the Crowell family. That comes with complications as their handsome son Michael is home on leave and very flirtatious. Maggie is uncomfortable and reluctant to respond to Michael's flirting. Soon she meets an American flier, Rob McAllister : handsome, charming and commitment shy. As the lives of the characters intersect, Maggie learns how war can leave invisible scars on people. She must decide where her future lies and hope for the best. Maggie deserves a happily ever after though and she may decide, like Elizabeth, to seize the chance even if happiness seems impractical. This is a very lengthy novel, clocking in at over 400 pages. I confess I didn't read every word because most of the novel is not actually a novel but a history lesson. The author did an amazing job researching the Georgian era to post-World War II England. I applaud her for that, but I didn't like the way she told the story. Large chunks of the book include monologues on the wars and backstories of the contemporary characters. There isn't a lot of actual storytelling in this novel and I really didn't like the way the little bit of fiction was fit in. You think you know the story of Pride and Prejudice, but there are some major differences between the "real life"Garrison/Lacey romance and the story as told by Jane Austen, so Maggie and the reader, are left wondering whether the real people actually were the models for the novel. The truth is eventually revealed. As if the stories within a story, isn't complicated enough, Maggie has her own romantic dilemma to solve. The subplots are incredibly hard to follow as they skip around in time and involve an extraordinary amount of people. It would have been nice to have a family tree and a list of characters because I kept forgetting who the characters were. Because the story is told in a disconnected way, I had a hard time getting into it and feeling anything for the characters. I was mainly interested the the story behind Pride and Prejudice and didn't care about the rest. It was mostly unnecessary. A lot of the history is not needed because it doesn't move the story along. If I wanted a history, I would have picked up a textbook or non-fiction tome. I did start to feel for Maggie in the last third of the book, once her love story became the focus. I could identify with wanting to move away from a small town and wanted her to succeed and be happy. I could also somewhat relate to the religious and ethnic prejudices. The twists and turns of her love triangle are a but surprising. More time is spent with one love interest over the other and drags the story out way too much. I was surprised by some of the events in her story but not surprised at who she chose in the end. For me, the romance wasn't very satisfying because the conclusion comes rather suddenly. Then, there's more plot that just made me want to give up on the book. I decided to push on and finish even though it was very late. I also disliked the number of mistakes in the character names. It was confusing enough to think of the characters from Pride and Prejudice as real people and to have the author confuse them and use the wrong name made it more difficult. For those who want to know: there are some love scenes but only one is depicted a bit too much. This review is nearly as long as the book, so I would recommend parts of the book but would not advise reading every word. Skip most of the first half, read only about the Garrisons and Laceys, skip ahead to the last third and ignore the rest. Janeites will enjoy the story behind the story, Downton Abbey fans will love the World War I romance and history buffs will eat up every single detail of the history in this story.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave comments and or suggestions for QNPoohBear, the modern bluestocking.