Friday, March 8, 2013

Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James

It was generally agreed by the female residents of Meryton that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet of Longbourn had been fortunate in the disposal in marriage of four of their five daughters. 

In some ways, Death Comes to Pemberley met my expectations, and in some ways it didn't. Six years after Elizabeth and Darcy have married, disaster strikes on the night before Pemberley's annual ball, when Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth's disgraced sister arrives, shrieking that Wickham has been  murdered. She, Wickham, and Captain Denny, who you'll remember from Pride and Prejudice were driving to Pemberley to foist Lydia onto Elizabeth, when Denny and Wickham both left the coach after an argument, and Lydia heard gun-shots. When Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam, a new character, Mr. Alveston, and a few other men go to investigate, they find that it is Denny, not Wickham who is dead. Wickham is of course the prime suspect, and what follows is an investigation of the murder.

As I said, I had mixed feelings about this book. First of all, it's not "authentic"; even though Pride and Prejudice is a work of fiction, the actual book is what "really" happened, and all these spin-offs aren't "real" (even though none of it is real). Plus, I didn't like what P.D. James did with some of the characters. I really liked Colonel Fitzwilliam, and he was portrayed in somewhat of a negative light in this version. However, I really liked one of the main new characters introduced, Mr. Alveston, a lawyer who has fallen in love with Georgiana Darcy. He's smart, handsome, and kind, and unlike many men during this time, actually believes that women have souls, and have minds. Shocking, I know. He's called a radical once, and he probably would be considered one in that time period, but I really liked him.

I also wished that Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship would have been touched upon more. That's mainly why (I, at least) read continuations like this. I want to see not just what happens to the characters, but also how their relationships shift and change. And we didn't get enough of that.

Also, the book is set in 1803. Isn't Pride and Prejudice supposed to be set in the 1810's or so: Regency England? I think the author got her dates wrong...Though I may be wrong.

My final criticism was that it seemed like everything was over-dramatized. At the beginning, before the murder even happens, Elizabeth is worrying about who Georgiana is going to marry, Mr. Alveston or Colonel Fitzwilliam. And I kept wanting to say to her, "It's not as big of a deal as you seem to think it is! Georgiana will just marry whoever she loves! And neither of them is poor!" Of course, she probably wouldn't understand me because of my new-age lingo. Even the murder itself seemed over-dramatized. Elizabeth, Darcy, and the other characters just agonize over it way too much. Sure, it's unpleasant and very sad for Captain Denny, but it's not like it's something that's going to ruin the rest of your life. That's how they were acting. Part of it was that the murder involves George Wickham, who those at Pemberley are not particularly friendly with. But still.

However, I did like the author's writing style; it felt good, even though she didn't really take the book where I wanted it to go. A quote that I liked: "By 1803, therefore, Mrs. Bennet could be regarded as a happy woman so far as her nature allowed and had even been known to sit through a four-course dinner in the presence of Sir William and Lady Lucas without once referring to the iniquity of the entail." (pg. 12).

Death Comes to Pemberley was on okay book, but it pales in comparison to the great Austen herself. It wasn't really bad (though other reviewers thought it was); it just wasn't...good.

Read Death Comes to Pemberley:
  • if you like Jane Austen
  • if you like mystery
  • if you like historical fiction
291 pages.
Okay book, but it left me wanting more!


  1. Wait. Wait. Wait. I'm confused about something. I thought in the end that Elizabeth died. This other book seems to have deceived me...

    1. Nope, Elizabeth certainly does not die. What other book was that?