I never really got the idea of reading all the various sequels/adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. Don’t get me wrong, I love the classic, and have read it multiple times. But, I was quite happy leaving Darcy and Elizabeth where they belonged. I didn’t need to read more about them.
That is, until one day I stumbled across Death comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. The book synopsis did not sound utterly ridiculous (unlike say Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), and I’ve always enjoyed James’ mysteries.
Hence my decision to read this book.
The year is 1803, and Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have been married for six years.
There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the nursery, Elizabeth’s beloved sister Jane and her husband Bingley live nearby and the orderly world of Pemberley seems unassailable.
But all this is threatened when, on the eve of the annual autumn ball, the guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley’s wild woodland. As it pulls up, Lydia Wickham – Elizabeth Bennet’s younger, unreliable sister – stumbles out screaming that her husband has been murdered.
~ Synopsis from goodreads
Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear!
I so wanted to love this book. The plot and the setting seemed so completely right for me. But unfortunately, it turned out to be quite a disappointment.
Watch out, spoilers below in my discussion of the plot below.
I went into the book expecting something really mysterious, and I was thinking Darcy and Elizabeth would together or separately be investigating the murder. That’s not the case however. There is a murder on their property. They call in the magistrate, and well, that’s it. The magistrate simply arrests the most likely suspect.
Then they all settle in to wait for the trial. And while the trial is ongoing – the real criminal decides to confess to his crime.
Yup, that’s the plot, which drags on, and on endlessly for almost 300 pages. The rest of the book is just fluff.
Awful characters, dialogues, and writing
Elizabeth who is flawed but spunky in Pride and Prejudice is a moronic housewife in this one. Darcy is just as insipid. The worst part is the dialogue. Pride and Prejudice was witty, even caustic in places. Death comes to Pemberley is mawkish.
The library at Pemberley was as freely open to her as it was to Darcy, and with his tactful and loving encouragement she had read more widely and with greater enjoyment and comprehension in the last six years than in all the past fifteen, augmenting an education which, she now understood, had never been other than rudimentary.
I mean, she needed tactful and loving encouragement to read a book? Ugh! What was P.D.James thinking?
And then, there are all the unnecessary references to events from Pride and Prejudice referenced solely to act as a refresher course to us forgetful readers. This is a book that will strictly appeal to P&P fans, so I thought all these reminders in the book were so unnecessary, and they derailed the plot way too much.
The book also has unnecessary references to characters from other Jane Austen books – such as Emma.
One of her parlour borders, Miss Harriet Smith, married a local farmer, Robert Martin, and is very happily settled. They have three daughters and a son, but the doctor has told her it is unlikely that further children can be expected and she and her husband are anxious to have another son as playmate to their own. Mr and Mrs Knightley of Donwell Abbey are the most important couple in Highbury, and Mrs Knightley is a friend of Mrs Martin and has always taken a keen interest in her children.
This entry might have been welcome if they actually advance the plot, but, no they are just referenced in the book, and that too in such a boring way.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were other such references to other such characters. But frankly, by mid-point, I was just skim-reading the novel hoping that at some point it would take off.
The trial of the suspect, the confession, everything was boring and predictable. The ending was happy, with not even a single loose end left untied.
In short, this is probably the most inept murder mystery I have ever read. It fails on both the mystery grounds and the historical fiction grounds. And it’s probably one of my most disliked books this year.
Do not recommend!
Links for the book if you still want to go ahead and buy it.
You can also buy a copy of this book from Amazon.