REVIEW: Pemberley Remembered by Mary Simonsen

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Pemberley RememberedReview by MJRyan

The premise of this book sounded intriguing – a young American woman in post-World War II England discovers that the story of Pride and Prejudice was based on a real couple. With the allure of such a romantic reality she begins investigating during her infrequent leaves from her job with the Army Exchange Service. What unfurls is so detailed a fictional history of fictional characters that it left this reader quite uninterested.

But this doesn’t even touch on my biggest issue with the book. By implying that Austen cribbed each and every character from real people, the author minimizes Austen’s genius at creating compelling characters from her imagination. I have no doubt that Austen’s characters were amalgams of people she knew in the course of her life; “write what you know” is a tenet for a reason. But, to write so blatantly of people she knew in real life would have not only cause offense but could have also exposed her as the anonymous authoress.

The history that the author creates is not without merit. It is obvious that she put a great deal of research and thought into the story. However, this detail doesn’t work in the framework of this book. Too much information is passed down through generations, minutia that would inevitably be lost in translation through years and ears. I feel the story would have been better served if it had been presented as a straight forward sequel to Pride and Prejudice. Not only would the slight, surely unintentional, insult to Austen’s creativity be avoided but the impact of the story would have been greater by being a first hand account.

The current day characters failed to capture my imagination which was disappointing since WWII England is a subject that fascinates me. There were quite a few nuggets of interesting historical information about post war England. But again, they were buried so deeply in details that had no impact on the story or character that their impact was quite lost.

I think there are two interesting, compelling stories in this book. One would be a sequel to Pride and Prejudice that would allow the author’s imagination the latitude to run free. The other is an original story about a woman and her journey to discover herself. In Pemberley Remembered, the two together are too much.