Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
There are a multitude of scathing reviews about this book on Goodreads. Most people who were bitterly disappointed are, I suspect, Austen purists.
When I read this novel, I immediately realized that this was going to be a poor man's imitation of Jane Austen's writing. Once I settled myself into that knowledge, I felt okay to proceed. In reviewing it, I don't feel basing it's merit on comparing to Austen's style is fair.
Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice in 1813. There is absolutely no way that anyone could completely and totally mimic her writing style, unless they Marty Mcfly'ed here from that time period.
Many of the novels from that time in some way reference the Napoleonic wars and French revolutions that were occurring just before the 1800s. Needless to say, the entirety of Europe was in unrest. At the same time, there was the War of 1812 going on in Canada, which hardly seemed to cause any waves.
(Yes, we Canadians have a full on war with America...which barely causes any waves. We know how to do it right.)
Anyway, Death Comes to Pemberley brings us back to the our beloved favourites, Elizabeth and Darcy. And of course, Jane and Bingley and other assorted secondary characters that made P&P such a wonderful book.
However, imitating Austen's style (or attempting to), sadly fails here. I did say that I would try not to review the book comparing it to Austen, but it's not that the language was different...It is the fact that James tried so hard and it is very apparent in her writing.
She spins a tale of Darcy and Elizabeth hosting the annual event-of-the-year at Pemberly: Lady Anne's Ball. However, the night before the big event, Lydia arrives in a careening carriage screaming about Wickham being murdered on the estate.
This, of course, incites a full on search party led by the Colonel Fitzwilliam.
MILD SPOILERS AHEAD
Wickham, however, it not dead. He is found standing over his friend Denny's body, yelling how it is his fault Denny is dead.
Enter hearing in local pub where Wickham is pronounced guilty. The trial proceeds to Old Bailey and there a myriad of people involved are witnesses for or against Wickham.
I will not spoil with who DID kill Denny, but it is rather predictable.
The whole novel is made out to be this big murder whodunnit, but it lacks the OOMPH and MYSTERY that Agatha Christie is so known for. Perhaps P.D. James is a poor man's Agatha AND Jane.
In the end I gave Death 2 stars because I didn't like it. It was OKAY, but nothing special and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Even though James attempted to use old English in her dialogue, she utilized phrases like "mentally disturbed" and "cope with", which were conspicuously at odds with the old English feel.
And then she attempted to make Darcy into this communicative man who frequently uses the term "my love" when addressing Elizabeth. In P&P, even though we find out that Darcy is shy rather than taciturn, he still remains a man of few words. James tried her best to flesh him out in this novel, but perhaps he should have remained more stoic and silent.
View all my reviews