Monday, 16 January 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley - P.D.James

So I am a sucker for things associated with Pride and Prejudice - modern takes, inspired by her works mostly. However, I have never read a book that continues the story of her books. In fact, I think it is mostly because I think she would turn in her grave, cringing at people imitating her and trying to add things that, in her mind, never happened.
However, this book fell into my hands.
Working at a book shop, I see what is popular with people and this one was. I learnt that P.D.James is a well known, celebrated crime writer who has won awards and when I saw this copy in my college library, I decided to give it a go, I mean, I love takes on Pride and Prejudice and a mystery with Wickham - seeing the relationships of Elizabeth and Darcy and Jane and Bingley - that is like my ideal book, maybe...

Synopsis: The year is 1803 and both Elizabeth and Jane have been married for exactly six years. With two healthy sons, a stable relationship and Jane very nearby, Elizabeth is comfortable and happy with the life she chose. However, this is all threatened when, on the eve of Pemberley's annual ball, a chaise appears in the middle of a storm, carrying Lydia, their sister, shouting that her husband, Wickham, has been murdered. Suddenly, there is a race to find the truth and the tranquil of Pemberley is ruined. Who is the killer and what other dark secrets are there underneath the niceties?

Review: When I got this book, I had a look on Goodreads to see what people said as I knew little about it. There have been rather mixed reviews, admittingly mostly negative ones. But I decided to go on and read this as I thought it might be interesting and different to read.
Oh lord, is all I can say. I enjoyed parts of this but as it took me a month to read and I just...I don't really know what to think if I'm honest. This is one of those book that starts amazing...and then gets worse and worse until the end where it's uplifted again - you can tell that authors work on the opening and closing chapters.

Okay, so I'll take you chronologically. The book starts on the eve of the annual great ball of Pemberley, done in honour of the late Mrs Darcy where Elizabeth and Darcy are enjoying an evening with Jane and Bingley and Colonel Fitzwilliam.
To start off with, I thought I was going to really enjoy this book. From the first chapter, I felt I was being immersed in a the world of Jane Austen all over again, the writing done similarly (yet in a more modern way), the detail and world of the Pemberley really coming alive. I enjoyed the mystery of finding the body and killer, that intense wonder that all good mystery novels normally hold for the reader - I felt that.
However, after this, it started to go down hill.

I cannot say that I despised this book - it was enjoyable in some areas. However, overall, this book...just wasn't for me. The narrative became very slow and cumbersome and started to really drag on.
There were so many characters introduced, I lost touch with how they were and their relationship to the other characters - it got confusing. There was evidence people find that is never mentioned ever again in the story. And the climax of the trial ends abruptedly, 'saving the day' in the nick of time. A character died in the middle and impacts the rest of the story - and I have no idea who that person is.
All these things I felt I was expected to know - like I could read the author's mind. I can tell you, if I didn't know anything about Pride and Prejudice, I would have found this difficult to understand.

This book anticipated and intrigued me and I can understand the reasons for the bad reviews. I know this one is a rather negative one but I just did not enjoy this book at all. I don't know, maybe you will - but I just didn't.
The personalities of the characters we know so well vanished. Darcy was the most less arrogant, proud man I have seen and god, he was a boring point of view. Elizabeth lost that spark and independence so many people love about her character - this book just has that unique, special touch completely missing.

Overall, this book disappointed me and was tedious to read, and for me, it was kind of a waste of time I thought when I ended. What I did enjoy though about this book was the weaving in of the facts of Pride and Prejudice that really echo this story. Any cliffhangers you felt from that book are half answered in this one. This is a very modern take on such a classic novel and to be honest, if I was Jane Austen right now, I would be turning in my grave. P.D.James adds a note at the beginning that she thinks Austen would not have approved of this book - I totally agree.
Verdict: I didn't like it but that doesn't mean no-one should read it.

I give it a 2 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 291
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Challenges: BBC


  1. Thanks for such an honest review. I have to admit that when I heard about this book I was very excited to read it. I love P&P it's my all time favourite book.
    After reading your review I think that I will still give it a go but that I will wait for the PB or borrow a copy and after reading your review at lest I'll have more realistic expectations.

  2. Exactly - I love the story (I mean, Darcy to start off with...) and the adaptations people have done with Austen's novels.
    This is, in my opinion, disappointing. Yeah I would give it a go, it may just be me that doesn't like this book.
    Glad I helped! :)

  3. This was a terrific sequal and tells us what James thinks happened next. Add a mystery and you have a winner! I'm read most of James and all of Austen. In fact, have reread much of both. James captured the spirit of Austen with a Jamesian plot. One of the few books I have read cover to cover is almost one sitting.

  4. Oh my goodness, what an amazing story. very much like Jane Austen writings A must read.

    Gretta Hewson
    Amerisleep Tucson Mattress Store


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