Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley

When all is said and done, this mystery novel, also a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, by the masterful P. D. James, will probably be considered an oddity in her oeuvre rather than another masterpiece. The major problem is how unsuspenseful and basically unsatisfying the central mystery is: On the eve of Pemberley's annual ball a distraught Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth Darcy neƩ Bennett's sister arrives with the news that her husband has been murdered in the Pemberley woods. Her husband, the wicked George Wickham, is not dead, however, but his best friend, Captain Denny, is and Wickham is arrested for the crime.

There are nice touches throughout the narrative, including some witticisms worthy of the source material, and an intriguing subplot involving Darcy's great-grandfather. James writes in 19th Century prose but is willing to modernize a little in her descriptions of the emotional world of her character's. Lizzy is, unfortunately, fairly flat, but Darcy comes across as more fully human than he was in P & P. While the book slogged for me in the first half, it picked up toward the end at the inquest. As all was explained I found myself fairly riveted, plus moved by the interior worlds of Austen's characters.

P. D. James is 91 and it is hard not to imagine that she has allowed herself the opportunity to enter the fictional world of Austen. It is like a gift she has given to herself, and her warmth toward her characters (and warmth has never been a hallmark of any James' book) is apparent throughout. It's not a great book but there's something touching about it, and being immersed in the beautiful prose-style of P. D. James is never a bad thing.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. I was sort of waiting to hear your take on this ever since I heard about this book. What a strange idea. And P.D. James is 91!? Wow.