Review: Pemberley Ranch, by Jack Caldwell
Set at the end of the American Civil War, Beth Bennet's family makes the decision to move from their Northern home in Ohio to a new and more promising homestead in the South. Still reeling from the death of her brother in the war, Beth vows to never forgive the rebellious South for her loss. But in a small town like Rosings, Texas neighbors will quickly become friends. Once Beth's older sister Jane marries Doc Bingley, the family circle quickly expands to include rancher Will Darcy... and things go... just as you might think they would go.
Described on the cover as "Pride & Prejudice meets Gone With the Wind," I would argue that it's much more like John Jakes' North & South than Gone With the Wind. The dynamics are closer. And as such, it's not only a lesson in literary adaptation, but a Civil War history lesson as well. This being the 150th Anniversary year of the start of the Civil War, the resulting reflection is appropriate.
This is obviously not quite a direct adaptation (Charlotte Lucas lacks a brood of younger siblings, one is able to muster some sympathy for Caroline Bingley, and the Hursts and the Gardiners are present in name only), but it nests comfortably astride both the worlds of Austen and of mid-19th century Texas, utilizing the somewhat less stringent societal rules of the South, but still making use of a decent amount of Austen's original text.
Caldwell even brings in characters from her other books including Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey), Edmund Bertram (Mansfield Park), Mr. Knightley & Mr. Elton (Emma) and a mention of a Miss Dashwood (Sense & Sensibility). At first I was surprised at the exclusion of a Willoughby or a Crawford, the likes of whom would fit perfectly into the ranks of (Kid) Denny and George Whitehead (this version's Wickham), but perhaps that would be too easy. In the end George, Denny, (Billy) Collins, and even Elton, were villainous enough on their own, thanks to Caldwell's fantastic transformation of the story into something very different and pretty special.