Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Book Review: Death comes to Pemberley by P.D.James

"The Year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the Pemberley nursery, Elizabeth's beloved sister Jane and her husband, Bingley, live within seventeen miles, the ordered and secure life of Pemberley seems unassailable, and Elizabeth's happiness in her marriage is complete. But their peace is threatened and old sins and misunderstandings are rekindled on the eve of the annual autumn ball. The Darcys and their guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley's wild woodland, and as it pulls up, Lydia Wickham, an uninvited guest, tumbles out, screaming that her husband has been murdered."   (Death comes to Pemberley)

The moment I heard P.D.James had written a book utilising the characters from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice I knew I had to read it. I love Pride and Prejudice and I love P.D.James' books so putting the two together seemed like an amazing idea and I wasn't disappointed with the result.

P.D.James was born in Oxford in 1920 and has written over 20 novels. For years I wrongly assumed P.D.James was a man simply because I had never seen her in any medium and I have read this was partly the intention of using P.D. rather than her forename to keep it ambiguous as often male crime writers are taken more seriously then female writers in the genre. Her novels throw light on what living in Britain has meant at different points of the last century and her cleverly conceived plots and interesting characters draw the reader in right up until the last page.

Combining her two passions of writing detective fiction and reading Jane Austen, P.D. James has taken the characters and settings of Pride and Prejudice and joined them six years after the conclusion of the novel. The tone of the novel mirrors that of Austen and it gives interesting insights into the legal system in 1803. It is fascinating to see how James imagined the Pride and Prejudice characters ending up and for the most part I agree with her predictions. However when taking characters people know so well I doubt you could ever make everyone happy and there were moments when I thought 'Elizabeth wouldn't think that!' and I felt my much-loved characters who I like to think I know so well were being misunderstood.

I had to take a step back and read this book as a stand alone book so I didn't get bogged down in what I thought should happen and what I wanted to happen. I don't want to give much away about the murder itself but I think anyone who likes a murder mystery or Pride and Prejudice (or both!) would enjoy this book. It is well written and shows how elements of human nature rarely change over the years.


1 comment:

  1. I've been waiting for your review, Em! Now, I cannot wait to read this novel. Austen is a true favorite - with Pride and Prejudice topping my list! I don't read much crime mystery, so P.D. is a new author to me - but you'll laugh to know that we had a parakeet in the house for years, my daughter's pet bird, and his name was 'Petey' - or so I thought...that is until Maria wrote about him at school....Here, she was saying 'P.D.' all along! haha....