Nov 26, 2008

Pemberley by the Sea by Abigail Reynolds

Abigail Reynolds' Pemberley by the Sea is a retelling of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, but in modern times and with modern sensibilities. Who would have Elizabeth Bennet been in today's world, and who would have been Fitzwilliam Darcy?

In Reynolds' modern day romance, which is set on Cape Cod and in Pennsylvania, Dr. Cassie Boulton is a marine biologist who loves a good book so long as the ending is a happy one--because there are just too much unpleasantness in real life. In many ways Cassie and Elizabeth are both strong women with a sharp wit, but Cassie also is an accomplished career woman with serious ambitions and a dangerous past. One of my favorite scenes is when she and Calder are in a charming bookstore and he has merely followed her around and not said much (from pg. 29).

She paid for her purchase, and said good-bye to Ed, and then turned back to Calder. He held a book in his hand now but was still looking at her with disturbing intensity. She smiled with apparent sweetness at him and said cheekily, "Lovely chatting with you, Calder. We'll have to do this again some time." She made a quick exit, leaving the bells on the door jingling behind her.

The tension here is palatable, and it remains so throughout the novel, and Reynolds does a great job showing and creating sexual tension, charisma, and release between these characters.

Calder Westing III is the son of a rich, Republican, and southern political family. Like Mr. Darcy, Calder Westing is the consummate blue blood with his chiseled features, highbrow manners, and cool temperament, but passion runs deep beneath the veneer as does his loyalty and vulnerability.

Their summer romance hits them hard and fast, but it quickly fades into the background as each deals with the unpleasantness of their every day lives and the qualms they have about fitting into one another's world. Calder fights for his love through an adaptation of Cassie's favorite novel, while Cassie has to fight her basic instinct to flee when harsh times approach. She manages to overcome her innate, biological responses and confides in Calder, trusting that they can work through anything together.

Not only are we thrust into their romance, but the reader is introduced to Erin (i.e. Jane Bennet) and Scott (i.e. Mr. Bingley), whose romance falls off track and only rights itself on its own, not as cleanly as it happens in Austen's novel. Caro, Calder's mother, is another fascinating character, along with the Jim, Cassie's mentor, and Dave Crowley, attorney and long-time friend of Calder's family and Cassie. Joe, Calder's father, is a force to be reckoned with, and the tension in the novel becomes almost stifling when he enters a scene. There is a wide range of supporting characters in this novel, and each has a significant role to play, which makes this more than just an Austen do-over.

Not only has Reynolds eloquently captured the tension between the characters and developed their relationships believably throughout the 400+ page novel, she has taken the time to put the reader in Woods Hole with her descriptions. It was like taking a vacation and getting lost on the seaside or in the marsh. Check out this description from pg. 422.

Cassie stood on the beach in front of the house, her arms wrapped around herself. Finally some peace and quiet. A cool breeze blew in over Buzzard's Bay, whipping up whitecaps that broke on the shore, coming closer and closer to her feet as the tide came in. Around her lay the flotsam of the last high tide, strands of seaweed, broken shells, and here and there an empty shark egg case. Mermaids' purses--that was what children called the egg cases when they discovered them on the beach. A used-up dead shell that once protected a baby dogfish or skate, and now it would be a child's treasure.

Not only do the descriptions do justice to the setting and put the reader in the midst of the scene with the characters, they serve to put the reader in the characters' minds. What is Cassie thinking? How is Cassie reacting? In some cases, the scenes serve to foreshadow upcoming events, feelings, and trials, but in others the scenes symbolize overarching themes in the text.

From the beginning to the end, this is an engrossing novel that takes the reader on a deep ride into the romance and struggles of these two characters. They are memorable, and I was sad to see them go. I hope we hear more from these characters. In terms of Jane Austen spin offs and redos, this is one of the best and could even stand on its own without the references to Pride & Prejudice, which is a clear testament to Reynolds' talent as a writer.

I want to thank Danielle Jackson at Sourcebooks for sending me this novel to review.

Also Reviewed By:
Jackets & Covers

***Reminder***

Don't forget my contest for the writing guide Grit for the Oyster. You have two chances to enter: the review and the guest post

Deadline is December 1, Midnight EST.

31 comments:

Jeannie said...

"In terms of Jane Austen spin offs and redos, this is one of the best..."

Really? You've got my attention.

P.S. Sorry I'm behind on your blog. I've been doing a lot of studying.

P.P.S. I am Anne Elliot too. :D

Toni said...

Oh this sounds really good. I haven't read a lot of Austen spin offs but I would like to try some of the ones that have been recommended. Awesome review!

Serena said...

Jeannie: I completely understand. I went through google reader yesterday, which was over 800 posts.

Toni: This is one of the best ones I've read. It could stand on its own as a non-Austen book.

carolsnotebook said...

I have to add this to my TBR pile.

Bookish Ruth said...

Oh, this sounds absolutely fantastic! Definitely going to look into this one.

Ramya said...

i have always stayed away from spin offs.. i think they never do justice to the original.. but i think i am going to have to change my opinion after reading your review.. this sounds like an interesting book to read!

Serena said...

Carolsnotebook: Its a good one.

bookish ruth: Its a great novel.

ramya: I wouldn't even call this a spinoff so much as a modern day retelling...

Dar said...

This spinoff sounds so good-great review Serena. I think I'll add this one to the ever growing list.

Serena said...

Dar: This is the rare occasion where I finished a hefty book 400+ pages in less than 2 days...much like what happened when I read the twilight series. It was that good.

Marvin D. Wilson said...

A remake of Pride & Prejudice is a hefty undertaking, but it sounds like this book has done it well. Always appreciate your reviews, Serena.

Serena said...

This was a delightful read, Marvin.

J. Kaye Oldner said...

I wanted to drop by and wish you an awesome Thanksgiving. :)

Serena said...

J. Kaye: Thanks for the well wishes.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Nope, don't send this my way. I'm catching up, but not fast enough to start adding to the mountain again.

Rather, I was hoping you'd be so kind as to keep an eye on The Meet and Greet (my main blog) for a few days... You'll like it...

Veens said...

ohh wow! This sounds exciting :) and your review is just greeeeaaat!

Anna said...

Glad you like this one, too. Now we can discuss it next time we see one another. Reynolds' descriptions of the scenery made me think back to our trips to the Cape. I miss that place!

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Shana said...

Serena, fantastic review. You know, I never really thought about it but fleeing from a relationship we think might hurt us IS an innate biological response. Leave it to you to teach me a little philosophy in a book review!

Shana
Literarily

naida said...

great review, this sounds like a great read.

http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

Joanne said...

Fantastic review, I really enjoyed the descriptive writing in this book, the detail was amazing.

Serena said...

Shana: I sometimes wonder if I think too much about books. LOL

Naida, Veens, Anna: I really enjoyed this book.

teabird said...

Wow, this sounds like a really good spin-off! (scurries to add to list)

Serena said...

teabird: this is a great one! Don't forget to enter the contest on the Q&A post.

Alyce said...

This book sounds wonderful! It's nice to find a P&P spinoff that can stand on its own. I'm curious to read it myself just to see how it plays out in the modern day setting.

Janel said...

Looks like some wonderful characters and I love Cape Cod. I think I would really like this one. I'm off to put it on my wish list!

Becca said...

This book had me from the words ‘retelling of Pride & Prejudice’ but it sounds like it is a great book in its own right. I will have to get my hands on a copy.

Wendi B. - Wendi's Book Corner ~ Rainy Day Reads in Seattle said...

What a great review - I'm adding this book to my wish list. I've always wanted to visit Cape Cod.

The bookstore scene was great, and its good to hear that the characters face some ups and downs through the book.

:) Wendi

Carolyn said...

This sounds like an awesome read! A modern day Pride and Prejudice is enough to wet my appetite. This will go on my (long) short list.

thanks so much for reviewing

carolyn s

ceashark at aol dot com

The Giveaway Diva said...

I really enjoyed your review! since pride and prejudice is such a classic and since I love reading novels by Jane Austen i would really love to read this book to compare

Dreamybee said...

Sounds like a great update on a classic. Thanks for the review!

Jeanne said...

Last week I was reading a "sequel" to Pride and Prejudice, and this one looks like just the thing to take the aftertaste out of my brain.

Serena said...

Jeanne: This was a good one!