The Magnolia Palace

by Fiona Davis

“Frick. That’s whose house she was in. The Fricks, Lillian knew from their gossip columns, made their fortune in steel, and had two grown children. The newspapers had made a grateful fuss out of the fact that Mr. Frick had designated that his house eventually be left to the city and turned into a museum.”

Ratings & Reviews

Book Grade: A-

The Magnolia Palace is a historical fiction at its best. Fiona Davis, a master of her craft knows just how to blend history with creative takes on the people involved. Her latest novel is no exception.

Blending true-to-life details about the art in the Frick mansion and weaving in a creative mystery about a missing pink diamond, this story has a bit of intrigue and a fascinating look into a bygone era. Plus, the alternating perspectives between 1919 and 1966 makes for a refreshing reminder of how much and how little can change over the course of a generation.

Overall, this is an addictive read with the only flaw being an ending that is tied up a bit too neatly.

Movie Rating: PG

The Magnolia Palace is packed with historical details, but given the era in which it is set, there is very little objectionable content. The main focus of scandal stems from the fact that Lillian used to model in the nude for renowned artists. There was nothing inappropriate about her work, but Davis manages to highlight the contradiction between celebrating art and shaming a woman who served as an artist’s muse.

Plus, given that Tirzah Price tried to stay true to the style and plot of Austen’s original novel, I was thrilled that she didn’t add anything too crazy to the storyline. Yes, there is a murder, but it is never discussed in more than cursory detail, so this can be read by almost any Austen fan without blushing.

Would I Buy This for My Library: Absolutely

Pride and Premeditation is a great addition to the list of Austen-inspired novels that we have in the library. The clever take on Austen’s ever-popular novel combined with a slightly anachronistic Lizzie who is fighting for her place in her father’s law firm, makes this both timeless and timely. The cover is beautiful and the book is a quick read, particularly for those who love classics and mysteries. This is a great addition to the library shelves!

Summary:

Set in New York City after the Spanish Flu has wiped out so many, The Magnolia Palace focuses on Lillian, the woman who served as the muse for many of the most famous sculptures around the city. After being accused of killing her landlord’s wife, Lillian (alternatively known as Angelica when modeling) flees the apartment she had shared with her recently deceased mother. An unpredictable set of circumstances land her at the Frick mansion where she is given a job as Helen Clay Frick’s private secretary.

As Lizzie begins to immerse herself in the mystery, she finds that she has conflicting feelings for Wickham, a young man who seems to pop up when she most needs help with solving the mystery. Additionally, the young lawyer, Darcy, is both incredibly handsome and infuriatingly frustrating. She needs to partner with him to clear Bingley’s name, but finds his arrogance to be offputting. With classic Austen humor, witty characters, and a clever mystery, Pride and Premeditation proves to have firm roots in the famed novel, but a unique twist that will keep readers hooked.

This is an addictive blend of Jane Austen’s classic novel and a regency era mystery. With clever characters, unexpected reveals, and witty dialogue, Pride and Premeditation is a fun and enchanting read.

Book Talk Questions:

  1. What is Mr. Collins like and why does Lizzie have concerns about his role at the firm?
  2. Who does Lizzie consider to be a suspect early on in the case? Why are they suspected and what evidence supports her thinking?
  3. Why does Lizzie need to solve this case? Why does she need to keep this from her mother?
  4. Mr. Darcy may be blinded by his loyalty as a friend. What evidence is being used to implicate Mr. Bingley? What evidence would indicate that his friend is innocent?
  5. Lizzie and Darcy are locked in a closet in his office. What does she learn about Darcy while they are locked up and how does this challenge her assumptions about his privileged background?
  6. Who actually committed the murder and what was their motive?

A Perfect Read for Fans Of…

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray

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