Book Review: Death Comes to Pemberley written by P.D. James


Title: Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Genre: Fiction
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada
Page Count: 205
Format: E-Book (Read on B&N Nook)
Rating: 4/5, loved it
Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #4

In honor of the 200th birthday of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (published January 28) I decided to read one of the many P&P spin-off’s out there. The one I chose to read in honor of this most lovely of celebrations is Death Comes to Pemberly written by P.D. James. There were many, many choices but this one looked really promising and I really liked the title, hehe. Pride & Prejudice is definitely one of my all time favorite books, I never tire of reading it over and over again or of watching the movie. The Keira Knightley version is my favorite and when I am reading the books I recall that particular version of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, complete with their accurate voices lol.

The book picks up where Jane Austen’s P&P left off. It explains life after the weddings of the Binglys, the Darcys and even the Wickhams (cringe!) We are happy to see that life at Pemberley is supremely happy and Elizabeth and Darcy are just as in love as when they both realized they were in love with each other maybe even more so because of the years they have now had together and the bearing of their children. It starts with the Pemberley household getting ready for the annual ball that is held in honor of Darcy’s mother, Lady Anne. As the finishing touches are placed for the ball, like beautiful flowers and the shining of the silverware a storm is brewing outside of the walls of Pemberley which fills everyone with a sense of foreboding. All of a sudden the party glimpses a carriage rushing through the storm and out from the carriage door pops a wild, disheveled Lydia who is pretty much wailing like a Banshee. She is hysterically crying and throwing herself around, screaming that Wickham was murdered and that his friend Denny had shot him. At this point everyone is confused because 1) the Wickhams were not even invited to the ball and 2) who can really pay attention and understand Lydia during a fit of hysteria, really? Push comes to shove and the men set out to the “haunted” woods of Pemberly while the women try to comfort Lydia so that she’s not driving herself (and everyone else) crazy. The men happen to stumble upon Wickham crying hysterically holding his friend Denny’s body in his arms, his face and hands smeared with Denny’s blood. The whole scene looks pretty incriminating, especially when he says something to the effect of, “It’s my fault. He was my only friend and I killed him”. The rest of the book is basically akin to a “who done it” type story without really pointing fingers. The characters get funny feelings about other characters, but once again as in the original novel, this book harbors many misunderstandings. Of course, the misunderstandings also have to do with the infamous Mr. Wickham. Will he be found guilty…or not? Read it and see!

I really really liked this book. I thought the writing style was superb. I love how the author tried to stay true to the style of language used in the original novel. I think that is essential when we are dealing with such a classic as P&P is. If the language had been modern, I don’t know if I would have liked it as much. I think it impressed me to see him stick to this sort of language and actually hit it right on the nail. I was just really impressed that the book was so great, I’ve heard of other P&P and Austen sequels not quite making the cut with Austen fans but I think this one will meet our high expectations. I think by force of habit we tend to enter in to any sequel with an overly critical eye. I loved getting to see a sort of alternate universe of the P&P atmosphere. I think we’ve all often wondered what happened next. There’s also a really great treat thrown in towards the end of the book that ties in some of the main characters from Emma which was definitely a treat and had me thinking, thank God I’ve read that or else they would have just been names of random people just thrown onto a page. That was brilliant. The author did a good job of tying up loose ends as well like giving us details of how Georgiana’s life ends up and who Mary Bennett gets married to. It was just very nice to see these characters again and be in this world again. Even though it was definitely a different experience.

What I really didn’t like about the book was…Wickham. Surprise! No, seriously I hate the way people baby him in this book. People are always bailing him out and he always has hand outstretched for handouts and no matter how many times he really messes up…and I mean REALLY messes up, everyone just shrugs and says “Oh that Wickham. That’s a crazy one he is…but poor boy to have been shown one way of living all his childhood life and then be expected to live another as an adult.” Over all though it was a wonderful read. It was definitely a light read and fans of P&P or just Jane Austen fans in general will enjoy this one!

Because we are talking P&P and Mr. Darcy (swoon) I just have to leave you with my favorite scene from the movie!!

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