Death Comes to Pemberley

What better way to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice than by posting my review of P.D. James’ 2011 novel, Death Comes to Pemberley.

People can’t resist reading, not to mention, writing, about Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy and what their life together might have been like after the events in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Countless fanfiction novels  about them have been written – about their future together, about the lives of their sons, the lives of their daughters; about Mr. Darcy’s diary; about what would happen if zombies invaded Netherfield and Longbourne; and now, about what would happen if they found themselves involved in an unspeakable crime.

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth – OK, maybe just Mr. Darcy, has been the stuff of many readers’ (read: women’s) fantasies, and somehow, knowing that they lived happily ever after in Pride and Prejudice just isn’t enough.

Pem

Death Comes to Pemberley is a mystery novel involving the beloved characters of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, set 6 years after Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy are wed.

After years of wedded bliss, Elizabeth and Darcy are now the happy parents of two boys – Fitzwilliam and Charles; Georgiana Darcy is living with them at Pemberley; Colonel Fitzwilliam is now a Count; and Jane and Bingley, with their own brood, including twins, live in an estate nearby.  Things could not be any more perfect – that is, until an unsavory incident takes place in Pemberley, threatening their happiness, as well as their safety.

Not surprisingly, the antagonists of P.D. Jame’s novel is more or less the same antagonists of the original novel – except now, their deeds are more dastardly than just  spreading nasty rumors about other people’s antisocial behavior.

As a fan of Pride and Prejudice, and crime novels, I thought that Death Comes to Pemberley would be the stuff of dreams. Two guilty pleasures rolled into one.  Unfortunately, it falls short of my expectations.

Though the focus of the novel is mainly the introduction and resolution of the unsavory incident that happens in the beginning of the story, a big part of the novel was  dedicated to summarizing the events of Pride and Prejudice, from start to finish. I found this part redundant, if not unnecessary.  If I wanted to know  what happened in Pride and Prejudice, I would go and read that first – also, I’m sure everyone who reads Death Comes to Pemberley has already read Pride and Prejudice.

Another thing Death Comes to Pemberly lacked was interaction and conversation between Darcy and Elizabeth, or, between any of the characters, for that matter.  Maybe this was done intentionally by the author out of  respect for Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice, and in not wanting to alter existing relationships, but, what is the point of writing a ‘continuation’ of a story, if you’re not going to speculate on and add to the lives of the existing characters?

As a continuation of the lives of Elizabeth and Darcy, I found the novel lacking – the novel did not venture to add or introduce any new aspect of their lives, except for the children, and what little interaction they had with each other was focused on discussing issues that happened 6 years ago – issues that Jane Austen herself didn’t feel the need to explain or discuss further.

As a crime novel, it was also a bit dry. To start with, the nature of the crime was not gruesome enough, the unraveling of the mystery, and finally, the resolution was neither complex, nor surprising.

All in all, I found the novel a bit disappointing. The only thing I really enjoyed about it was the mention of other Jane Austen characters, like Anne Elliot and Capt. Wentworth of Persuasion, and the Emma and George Knightley of Donwell Abbey, and how it seemed like they were all connected to each other somehow.

The biggest mystery for me was actually why P.D. James felt the need to use the characters of Pride and Prejudice if she wasn’t going to do much with them.  With the way it was written, the novel would probably have turned out the same, or possibly better, had she made up her own set of characters.

***

Death Comes to Pemberley (2011) – P.D. James

Faber and Faber; 325 pages

Personal rating:  2/5

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4 thoughts on “Death Comes to Pemberley

  1. Funny, I have this on my shelf, but haven’t read it yet. I saw your rating, but decided to skim your review…I’ll have to revisit it once I’ve read the book!

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