November 03, 2011

Death Comes To Pemberley - P.D. James


It was pretty much a given that as soon as I saw this book at the shops over the weekend that it was coming home with me - I was looking for something light and comforting in the reading department and my Jane Austen obsession hadn't been fed in quite a while.
Death Comes To Pemberley is set in 1803, six years after the end of Pride and Prejudice and the double wedding of Darcy and Elizabeth and Jane and Bingley. The two couples live not far from each other in their rambling, magnificent estates and when the book starts preparations are under way for the annual ball at Pemberley. The book scans the main characters that are well know to Austen's readers and introduces a few new ones who will become more prominent in this sequel.
In her author's note at the start of the book P.D. James writes:
I owe an apology to the shade of Jane Austen for involving her beloved Elizabeth in the trauma of a murder investigation....
No doubt she would have replied to my apology by saying that, had she wished to dwell on such odious subjects, she would have written this story herself, and done it better.
After finishing the book there is no doubt in my mind that Austen herself would have done a far better job - but I wonder if she would have wanted to attempt it? I have not read any of P.D.James's non-Austen related crime novels so I admit I have nothing to really compare her work to - as I don't think it is fair to compare her to Austen herself.
The story starts well enough, the scene is set, the tension is built and the crime occurs. For me there was never really any element of mystery to the plot - I had taken a pretty good guess at what was going on in the story very early on and as it turns out I was spot on in my guesses. The development of Austen's original characters was threadbare and one dimensional - I never really thought I was reading about Austen's characters, their names were merely being used. All in all this book was a little disappointing - and a reminder that only Austen can truly pull off an Austen story.

9 comments:

Becky (Page Turners) said...

Don't give up on PD James because of this book. She is one of the better crime fiction writers I think and has led an absolutely fascinating life if you ever find out more about her. I am on and off reading a non-fiction book called Talking About Detective Fiction she wrote and its so interesting.

I had heard of this one but there's no way I would read it - anything that touches on anything Austen related I avoid likethe plague.

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Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

Even since Colleen McCullough's disastrous "The Independence of Miss Mary Bennett" I've feared famous author's homages to Austen. But you give me hope!

I so wanted this to be good and was anxiously waiting for the brave bloggers with advanced/review copies who would take the bullet for me :) I think I'll still reserve judgement for now...

Arti said...

Thanks for your review. Glad to hear an honest opinion. Now I might not put too high a priority on it. I was really curious, and surprised, when I first learned that P.D. James had written a P & P sequel. I just couldn't believe it. Why did she have to do that? I mean she's such a prolific writer and well-known in her own right and creations. So your post really helps me to get more idea of what it's like.

Karen said...

Hi Becky - thanks for the tip about P.D. James - I have heard some great things about her writing. I'm not a huge crime reader at the best of times so maybe this just isn't the genre for me?? I think you are very sensible for staying away from anything Austen related in this field - I wish I had that strength!!

Hi Alex - I read Colleen McCullough's book too and like you was bitterly disappointed - you think I would have learnt from that experience!!

Hi Arti - I am left wondering why P.D. James felt the need to write this book too. Maybe at this stage of her career and life she felt she could give anything a go??

Vintage Reading said...

Good to read a straightforward review! As an Austen purist it kind of annoy me that in this S&S anniversary year this book is displayed prominently in all the bookshelves and not an Austen novel!

Yvann said...

I've not read any other P D James but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in this - it had so much potential but just fell a bit short.

Yvann said...

I've not read any other P D James but I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in this - it had so much potential but just fell a bit short.

pasiondelalectura said...

Hi there. I agree with you because the way PD James makes the story is a little heavy in comparison with Miss Austen's style. The good point was about re- writing another story..
Here you have my post in French about this book(how do you feel about french?):
http://pasiondelalectura.wordpress.com/2012/07/11/la-mort-sinvite-a-pemberley-de-p-d-james/