Reviews for Searching for Pemberley from Publisher's Weekly, Austenesque Reviews, My Victorian Books, and A Bibliophile's Bookshelf
Using a literary mystery rooted in Jane Austen's inspiration for Pride and Prejudice, Simonsen's debut novel brings resonance to the story of a love-torn American girl in post-WWII London. Young and eager for adventure, Maggie Joyce has left her jobless Pennsylvania coal-mining town for a typist position overseas. In London, she discovers two love interests as well as connections to the real-life Londoners rumored to have been the basis for Pride's Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Learning to disregard her prim and proper instincts, Maggie becomes closer to her very own version of Darcy, as well as the families of the original Darcy and Bennet, from whom she receives old diary entries and letters. Simonsen is clever and evenhanded, maintaining an unhurried pace in both the Austen adventure and Maggie's love life. Fans of historical fiction and Austen should savor this leisurely read.
Searching for Pemberley, originally published as Pemberley Remembered in 2007, is an exceptional Austen-inspired novel that combines history, romance, war, and Pride and Prejudice. In this novel, Mary Simonsen explores the possibility of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice being inspired by real people and illustrates how the love story of Elizabeth Garrison and William Lacey parallels that of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Ms. Simonsen does not imply that Jane Austen needed to borrow material for her novels; yet this work of fiction indulges in the idea that one of the greatest love stories of all time was indeed inspired by real people.
Maggie Joyce, our quiet and unassuming heroine, does not have a lot to be cheerful about as she lives in London post World War II and works for the Army Exchange Service. Even though the war ended two years ago much of London is still devastated. Items like eggs and tea are considered a scarcity, and living quarters are often cramped and uncomfortable. Nevertheless, Maggie finds enjoyment in spending her weekends touring country estates near London. One day she encounters Montclair, a famous estate rumored to be the inspiration for Austen’s Pemberley and she learns that many people believe the couple who lived there were the models for Austen’s characters of Elizabeth and Darcy. After touring the house Maggie decides to discover for herself if there is any validity to this rumor and embarks upon her own “Pride and Prejudice Project.”
Maggie is introduced to Beth and Jim Crowell, a couple who is connected to and is very knowledgeable about the Lacey family. This lovely and friendly couple begin to care for Maggie as a daughter and become a surrogate family for her while she is away from home. I greatly enjoyed Maggie's relationship with this kind and dear couple; they assisted her in studying the association between the Laceys and Pride and Prejudice as well as sharing the story of their own loving, yet at times unhappy and troubled marriage.
There are two men in Maggie's life during her time in England: Rob McAllister, who served in WWII as a navigator on a B-17 bomber and Michael Crowell, son of Beth and Jim, who serves in the RAF. One of these men is reserved, emotionally scarred, and has a commitment problem. The other is flirtatious, charming, and already in a relationship. Maggie faces some trials and complications in her relationships with these men, and it marks a time in her life where she matures, blossoms, and makes some life-defining decisions. I took pleasure in this love triangle and at times couldn't decide who I wanted Maggie to be with; Ms. Simonsen created a very captivating and heartrending romance.
How I enjoyed this unique and inventive tale by Mary Lydon Simonsen! It is a serious story and one that is leisurely and lovingly told. I greatly appreciated Ms. Simonsen's attention to detail and her impeccable research and representation of life post World War II. One of my favorite aspects of this novel was how well it portrayed the challenges of living during a war and how it effects and changes the lives of so many for such a long time. In addition, I enjoyed the various documents, diary entries, and letters interspersed throughout the story. These documents, to and from the Laceys, were what Maggie was researching to determine if the Laceys were the real Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. I loved hearing the voices and thoughts of these characters through their letters and I found it quite amusing that Anne de Bough would serve as a confidante and faithful correspondent to Mr. Darcy! While these letters and diary entries were insightful and interesting, I would have loved for the story of Elizabeth Garrison and William Lacey to be a little more imaginative and original (especially the proposal scenes).
I highly recommend Searching For Pemberley for readers who want a break from reading light-hearted and fluffy novels and are interested in a mature and serious tale of three love stories interwoven with the tragedies of war and the discovery of a true Pride and Prejudice romance. I dearly hope to see more works from Mary Lydon Simonsen in print soon!
For all the Jane Austen fans out there, we are living in a year that is rich in Jane Austen sequels... Whether your taste goes for the daring, such as Mr Darcy, Vampyre or Pride or Prejudice and Zombies, or to the sedate and sweet, such asLoving Mr Darcy or Willoughby’s Return, there is definitely plenty of variety. Amongst all this reading along comes a book to be truly treasured and admired. A book rich in historical fact, and a complete treasure to read. That book is Searching for Pemberley.
I just adored reading Searching for Pemberley. Rather than writing a sequel, which many authors seem to be doing, Mary Lydon Simonsen has gone down a different route. She’s written a unique novel based on the idea that the characters of Pride and Prejudice were actually real people, that Jane Austen knew and based her popular book on.Meet Maggie, a young girl who is besotted with Jane Austen, as she travels through Derbyshire in search of the real "Darcys" and "Bennets."
Searching for Pemberley is rich in historical detail, as the book is set in the post-war England. History buffs will certainly be pleased with how accurate the historical facts are, and as someone who hasn’t read many post-war novels I found the historical details very enjoyable.
This was such a sweet, lovely read, with such rich characters and it was with much regret that it had to end. I could have read 1,000 pages on these wonderful characters, and I surely hope Mary Lydon Simonsen has more in store for us, in the future. With the holidays just around the corner, I definitely recommend purchasing this beautifully written book for the Jane Austen fan in your family. I know I will be buying a copy for my favorite Jane Austen fans.
On a trip to England, after World War II, an American woman, Maggie James, sets out to investigate a rumor concerning Jane Austen's writing of literature's famous Pride and Prejudice. The history of Pemberley begins to open as she meets the residents of a beautiful stately mansion in the countryside. Was this the actual home of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy? Through reading a series of old documents, Maggie begins to unravel the history and personalities behind one of the most beloved romances in literature. The author's writing flows with ease from page to page, making it an easy, fast read. It's a story that brings new insight, meaning, and possibilities to an old favorite that is sure to fascinate Austen fans.
This is a very well-written book, and one of the best "sequels" to the Jane Austen genre - and I have read most of them! Congratulations, Ms Simonsen! I am so happy to have received this book! Martha G. - Virginia
This is a gem you don't want to miss (Five Stars): "As a huge fan of P&P & one who has read many of the 'sequels', this is a truly a rare find. Mary Lydon Simonsen skillfully entwines three separate yet interconnected love stories. One long past, of the 'real' persons on whom Jane Austen based P&P; the next, having much in common with the first, of a love that develops against the rigid class system still existing in the early 20th century England; & the last of the American story teller & a war scarred American ex-bombardier in just post WWII England. It is an ambitious undertaking for any novelist, much less one's first. Yet she adeptly fleshes out these disparate characters & takes you on a journey that is rich, at times painful & completely mesmerizing. It begs a sequel. I cannot wait to read it. This by far the best of any of many 'sequels' to P&P I've read. Don't miss it." (As posted on amazon.com January 7, 2009 by K. M. Cavuoti)
Memorable (Five Stars): "This delightful tale is fabulously panoramic. First, the story obviously delves into the delicious world of Pride and Prejudice-Regency England. Then, with the words of all of the characters, we the readers get to see the First World War, the Second World War, life among the elite, life among the poor, England, America, Germany, India, and Italy. Never have I ever read a story so cosmopolitan yet down to earth. I have to say that the ending was my favorite part, but I shall not go into detail there. That is all for you to find out!" (As posted by “Vovo” on barnesandnoble.com on January 2, 2009)
Professional Reviews for Searching for Pemberley (formerly Pemberley Remembered)
The Long and Short of It
For anyone who is a lover of Jane Austen’s works, and in particular Pride and Prejudice, Pemberley Remembered is a must read. Ms. Simonsen, in her debut novel, has captured not only the essence of Austen’s work, but has brought a rare talent for weaving historical tales together and making the reader feel as if she is right there. There were times during my reading of this story I would find myself forgetting that the characters of P&P, as well as the characters in this book, are fictional. This is not a simple love story, but is, instead, three love stories woven together seamlessly. Maggie is attempting to work out her relationship with Rob and where, if anywhere, it is going. You have the story of William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison, told in their letters and diaries which Maggie studies, trying to discover the truth of the legend. And, you have the romance of the Crowells themselves and the mystery of how they know so much about the legend.
Ms. Simonsen gives a character list at the beginning of her book but, in this reviewer’s opinion, it would pay the reader good stead to read back over Pride and Prejudice before starting Pemberley Remembered, or at the very least to watch one of the many fine movies that have recently been made of P&P, in order to keep the characters straight in your head. (A summary and brief descriptions is available on this website.)
The research and detail that has gone into Pemberley Remembered is evident and the intertwining of the three love stories is masterfully done. I throroughly enjoyed this outing. It is truly a book that is well worth reading more than once, if only because there is so much richness in the book, you can’t grasp it all in one sitting. It is truly something to be savored. For that reason, I give this novel five books.
Curled Up With a Good Book by Swapna Khrisna http://www.curledup.com/pemberly.htmrishna
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!
Please visit www.curledup.com/pemberly.htmrishna for a complete review.
Front Street Reviews/Bell Literary Reflections
This is more than just your average addition to the popular new Austen genre. Mary Simonsen has a knowledge of both World Wars and post-war London and Germany that is not just impressive but rivals many historians. Incredible detailed accounts go much farther than recounting the facts but make pain, suffering, and resilience of her characters come alive as they absorb the effects of the war.
In contrast is the delightful story of the Bennet family. Highly ambitious, it gives minute details about the family, where they came from and what became of them, which imbues their lives with fuller, richer dimensions... I highly recommend this book and am looking forward to reading more of her work in the future. For a complete review please link to: http://lovingmyhome.blogspot.com/2008/03/pemberley-remembered.html
Pemberley Remembered is the publishing debut of Mary Lydon Simonsen. Currently living in the hot recesses of Arizona, Ms. Simonsen showcases her lush imagination and thorough knowledge of Regency Era England with its quirks and rich cultural heritage as well as the time period following World War II. Pemberley Remembered joins the ranks of the many Jane Austen inspired novels that simply cannot let the romance between Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet die with the conclusion of Pride and Prejudice. In this work, a post-WWII Maggie Joyce visits a Derbyshire country house that is said to have housed William Lacey and Elizabeth Garrison, purported to have been Ms. Austen’s inspiration for her characters. On a whim, Maggie researches the characters to find out if there is any truth to this saga and before long she makes friends with the descendants of Lacey and Garrison, and also meets her own love interest.
Pemberley Remembered is the kind of story that either flies high and succeeds or bombs beyond recognition – a danger that is always in play when the characters of a famous and much beloved novel are taken as a springboard for a new work of fiction. To say that Mary Simonsen succeeded in her endeavor to craft a love story within a love story is an understatement! In many ways she could be considered on the cutting edge of this highly specialized genre and while it is unclear whether it is her deeper understanding of the Jane Austen characters, her meticulous knowledge of WWII and Regency England histories, or her ability to weave together three seemingly unconnected story lines, this book is a resounding success on all levels. Readers who would rather gnaw off a limb than read a romance novel will take heart in the fact that this author is not crafting the quintessential romance that seems to fall into a cookie cutter mold, but instead is truly offering up a work of fiction that has yet to find its equal.
Kevin's Corner by Kevin Tipple (Blogger News Network)
[PR] is more of an epic style romance that one does not usually see these days and is written in a style that reminds one of an older novel. Maggie, a romantic and a huge fan of the novel, is searching for her own life story and romance in a world that is changing rapidly. While the Second World War has changed everyone and everything, the aftermath of war is having a more profound affect on her and everyone around her while she seeks to mold her life into something akin to a literary experience. As she seeks answers in her own romance and is faced with decisions that will further shape her life, she seeks answers to a literary mystery and proof one way or the other...
[T]he economic and cultural changes after World War Two at home and abroad in England should strike a cord in any reader that takes the journey back into time with this interesting novel. Romance and the difficulties of romance is a universal theme for nearly any reader and that theme is a constant backdrop for almost the entire novel. For the complete review, please go to:
"Pemberley Remembered gives you inside glimpses in the life of people living in Europe during the time immediately following World War II as well as a glimpse back into the history surrounding World War I. This book is well written and is a wonderful, informative story. Reading Pemberley Remembered is reading history, romance and even a little mystery all combined in one wonderful book." For the complete review, please link to:
Marybeth Gallagher VanWinkle, Editor, "The Searcher," NE PA Genealogical Society
"Pemberley Remembered is a precious jewel of a novel. Like a carefully cut stone, it can be read from many angles, each presenting a different perspective, yet no single one detracts from the cohesive beauty of the whole. It is a love story, a mystery, and a glimpse into two separate historical time periods in which the protagonists are struggling against traditions and mores of the past while attempting to live their lives according to an emerging set of values." For full review, please visit
Interview with Fiction Scribe by Jaime (Australia)
This week I have a bonus interview to put up. I’ve talked to novelist Mary Simonsen who wrote the novel Pemberley Remembered. I hope you’ll join me in welcoming her here to the site.
Hello and thank you for stopping at Fiction Scribe, Ms. Simonsen. Tell the readers a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Northern New Jersey very near to New York City. It was a great place to live as we were close to Broadway, the concert venues and the museums. While working in an engineering office, I met my husband, Paul. We’ve been married for 31 years and have two grown daughters and a granddaughter. Before having children, most of my career was as a legal secretary, but after my girls were old enough to go to school, I reinvented myself and became a special education assistant. I retired two years ago to pursue my own interests which are travel and writing a novel.
What brought you into the world of writing? When did you start?
I always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I had to write papers for college that I realized that I had some talent in that area. I have written for neighbourhood newsletters and a genealogical society, and I always got positive feedback. Like Jane Austen, much of my writing was for the “amusement of my family” and for the joy of writing.
For complete interview, please visit: http://www.fictionscribe.com/mary-simonsens-pemberley-remembered/