Death Comes to Pemberly

A couple of weeks ago I read Death Comes to Pemberly by P. D. James. 

I wanted to love it, I really did.

But I didn't love it.

For those of you who don't know about it, this is a sequel of sorts, to Pride and Prejudice and picks up 6 years after Darcy's marriage to Elizabeth Bennett.  Now happy and living at Pemberly, their perfect world is upended when Elizabeth's disgraced sister, Lydia, arrives uninvited and falls out of her carriage screaming that her beloved Wickham has been murdered!  The book concerns the investigation of the murder and the trauma caused to Darcy and Elizabeth as a result of their 'connection' with those involved in scandalous murder.

I found this book disappointing as both a mystery and as a sequel.  

Several reviews have hailed James for brilliantly mimicking Jane Austen when writing the book and frankly, that is what I hated.  I know you're not supposed to type this out loud but I find Jane Austen's books tedious.

There I said it.


I love the stories and I have LOVED all the movie adaptions - but reading the books?  Not so much.

It makes me feel inadequate and stupid, but I find them tedious.  Although I just read that Mark Twain said of Austen that he wanted to 'dig her up and hit her over the skull' so maybe I'm not totally alone in my opinion....

So I found this book tedious as well.  I also found the 'murder mystery' weirdly non-existent.  Actually, it was a big, fat, ridiculous yawn. 

Ultimately, the book is a continuation of Darcy's inner struggle to justify and reconcile his marriage to Elizabeth (outside of his class) and the social price he's paid because of it.  It turns out that Lady Catherine de Bourgh was right and the shades of Pemberly were a little polluted by Elizabeth Bennett and her family.

Perhaps my modern, American mind just has no use for Darcy's struggle or the social conventions of the time.  Moreover, while I bought the book expecting it to Austen-esque, I was hoping that James would provide a more fully rounded picture of the Darcys' marriage and relationship - but I didn't get it.

Although Darcy and Elizabeth separately spend a lot of time thinking about how much they adore each other, their interactions throughout the book amount to little more than exchanging pleasantries across the breakfast table.  They just never TALK to each other, in private, the way a couple in love would.  And then when they do finally have a conversation (in the epilogue, no less) they sound like strangers. 

Yes, they're SOOO in love  - but it's really hard to understand why.

So I give it a couple of stars.  If you're a huge Austen fan you'll love it.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more with your assessment of Jane Austen. I was in a book club for many years and we had a member who ADORED Jane Austen (though I suspect it was more the stories and the movies as well, given her other choice of reading materials...)and I had to work hard to schedule other events on the evenings when the Austen books were discussed so as not to have to confess that I could never make my way through one. Not one. Twain would have done everyone a big favour.


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