How Do We Decide Whether or Not Our Past will Haunt Us or Heal Us?
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
There was a lot of “buzz” in the JAFF world around Beau North’s debut novel, “Longbourn’s Songbird,” which made me itching to read it. I did load an unedited copy from online to my kindle, but I just couldn’t bring myself to read it before it received Christina Boyd’s thoughtful revisions and edits. It was like waiting to open a long-awaited Christmas gift, but I made it until publication day!
From there, I ripped into this book, with very high hopes and expectations… I am thrilled to state, it met all of these and more! I found within these pages a story filled with passion and longing that I just couldn’t put down until I savored the very last words …
“Longbourn’s Songbird” is a title that is prophetic in two ways; it gives us a glimpse into the story’s plot, while it also describes Beau North herself, as a writer and more accurately, as a wordsmith. What Beau accomplishes here in this story is her ability to pull us into an emotionally gripping “Pride and Prejudice” modern variation, while using her skills as a wordsmith to paint scenes and emotions that allow the reader to have a reading experience that closely resembles a cinematographic experience.
Beau takes her readers to the Deep South of the U.S.A., where we settle into post WWII and find our beloved characters from “Pride and Prejudice” grappling with many of the issues and struggles familiar to this era. Yet, the way Beau has crafted this story is not only fresh and original, it’s smart and deeply moving from the very first scene, where we find Will Darcy following the sound of an enchanting voice, that happens to belong to an alluring “wood nymph.” Caught between his past memories and his present-day desires, he returns to Netherfield House to help his friend and former Yale classmate, Charles Bingley, settle into his new property. Charles is joined by his sisters, Caroline and Louisa, who share with Bingley a dark and troubled past filled with family secrets, anguish and shame.
A few miles away from the grand plantation home of Netherfield, separated by farmland and plenty of wooded areas, is the Longbourn farmhouse, where the five Bennet sisters live with their parents. Filled with anticipation about their new neighbors, along with the renovations made to Netherfield, the Meryton community becomes filled with gossip about the new residents. What could possibly be the intentions and desires of their new neighbors?
From the beginning of their acquaintance, the claws come out between Caroline and Elizabeth. Their relationship, which is mired in jealousy, misunderstandings and mischief, sets the stage for many of the twists and turns throughout the story’s plot. Naturally, Caroline has her sights on capturing the wealthy landowner and entrepreneur, Will Darcy. For most of her own intents and purposes, she becomes a co-conspirator with the most devious partner, in an attempt to claim Darcy as her own. She’s ruthless, cunning and unfortunately for Darcy and Elizabeth, brilliant in her execution of these plans.
At the Meryton Centennial, our main characters meet, where the local dance hall serves as their setting. First impressions are chewed upon, as the local mother hens and their families gather to make their own assessments, regarding their new neighbors. It is also at this very same dance hall that Darcy discovers the identity of his lovely “wood nymph.” From here, our characters are set upon a voyage of self-discovery and romance, while experiencing the struggles of uncovering their own personal destinies, as they are thrown into the challenges that many young Americans faced during these turbulent times in our nation’s history.
The storyline follows canon in many regards, helping us predict some of the plot, along with the characters’ motives and actions. Yet, there is so much that is unique, invigorating and dynamic throughout this book, which includes its flawed, yet well-rounded characters, and its passionate and complex themes. The way that Beau North sketches multiple sub-plots, and ties these together to connect not only the characters, but also the complexity of the generational issues that she writes about throughout her book is nothing short of magnificent. There were numerous times where I audibly gasped at a character’s actions or a turn of events that took me by surprise.
WWII plays a distinct role in this story, as Colonel Fitzwilliam’s connections to the war play a large role within his life. I admire that Beau chose to show some of the brutal truths about this war through several flashbacks, demonstrating the multiple unintended consequences of this war for our soldiers, as well as for their families. During “Pride and Prejudice,” Europe was embroiled in war against Napoleon and his troops, yet Austen doesn’t engage her readers with many of the details surrounding these battles. I applaud the way Beau wove the details regarding WWII throughout her plot, bringing some important concerns around war, such as Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, to light for her audience.
Several other crucial issues that were pertinent to this generation (and remain present for us still today) are fleshed out in this book, such as homosexuality, women’s rights, the role of religion in our society, along with the evolving roles of husbands and wives.
As these social issues are unfolding throughout the plot, several characters are dealing with their own significant personal struggles. It’s these up close and personal issues that really drive the heart of the book, as we see our characters struggle through new and familiar terrains. Viewing them through the lenses of Austen’s characters enables us to empathize with them, while at the same time we attempt to construct a world where these obstacles are met with grace, dignity and a bit of well-earned defiance .
This story concludes with an insightful interview with our new JAFF author, Beau North. Here, she divulges many of the decisions she made as a writer, including why she chose to set the stage for this “Pride and Prejudice” variation in the backwaters of South Carolina, during post WWII, as well as why she bravely took on such controversial social issues within this novel. Her interview offers another great layer to understanding the motives of a JAFF writer, who I believe, will be a quite successful author for many years to come.
The following Pinterest board serves as a source of inspiration for our readers to share and enjoy… Just Jane 1813 Longbourn’s Songbird Pinterest Board
Beau North has offered our Just Jane 1813 readers an opportunity to enter a giveaway for an ebook copy of “Longbourn’s Songbird.” To enter this giveaway, please tell us about your favorite Modern JAFF book, including why you love the book. All comments should be submitted by November 13th. The giveaway winner will be announced on this blog on November 14, 2015.
I want to thank Beau for not only writing a Modern JAFF book that all JAFF readers will love, but also for her wonderful gifts for our readers, which includes this generous giveaway and her special blog post that will be shared today with our readers!