Every light in the room went dark. A single spotlight illuminated her on stage as though she were the sole woman on earth. Unrivaled. Incomparable. Matchless. The room immediately fell to a hush, the only sound the low murmur of people in the room whispering as though they knew something auspicious was about to happen.
Then she started to sing, and everything changed.
(from Longbourn’s Songbird)
Quick summary: Longbourn’s Songbird takes Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to the Deep South shortly after World War II. In Meryton, South Carolina, Will Darcy spies Elizabeth Bennet taking a dip in Netherfield Pond and is immediately drawn to her beautiful voice. Despite persuading her sister, Jane, to break up with Charles Bingley and setting his sights on Longbourn Farms, Elizabeth thinks there’s more to Will Darcy than meets the eye. But the schemes of Caroline Bingley and George Wickham and a heartbreaking secret from Elizabeth’s past threaten to keep them apart. Longbourn’s Songbird is more than just a Darcy and Elizabeth love story as author Beau North fully immerses Austen’s characters into a postwar society where soldiers are haunted by the war, women are still seen as the property of their husbands, and racism and poverty abound.
Why I wanted to read it: I was intrigued by the setting and time period and wanted to see how Austen’s characters would fare in post-World War II America.
What I liked: I was blown away by this novel. North seems to get the setting just right, and there are so many layers to this story, but it never feels overdone. Moreover, I loved her take on Austen’s characters, particularly Richard Fitzwilliam’s PTSD and the reason why Charlotte Lucas is willing to marry someone like the “holy roller” Leland Collins. Bingley’s backstory and how it comes full circle with Collins was so well done, as was North’s portrayal of Anne de Bourgh. North makes the secondary characters come to life while creating a Darcy and Lizzie readers can’t help but love.
What I disliked: Nothing! I breezed through this book in almost a single sitting.
Final thoughts: Longbourn’s Songbird is among the most unique retellings of Pride and Prejudice that I’ve had the pleasure to read. Yes, there is a passionate love story (more than one, actually) at its core, but it’s so much more than that. North takes the societal constraints of Jane Austen’s time and finds the similarities in the postwar South (even discussing her inspiration and reasoning in a Q&A at the end of the book, which I really appreciated). It was amazing to see how well Austen’s characters and plots fit into this setting, and North’s attention to detail makes for a rich novel. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year!
Disclosure: I received Longbourn’s Songbird from Meryton Press for review.
© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.