My favorite novel of all time is Pride and Prejudice by the lovely Jane Austen, so I try to read any and all sequels of P&P whenever I can. I had heard about this novel from the Jane Austen blogs/twitters that I follow, but never picked it up till it was on sale at Barnes & Noble. Anything that has to do with P&P is worth a shot…
The year is 1803, six years after Elizabeth and Darcy married. They are settling into their lives at Pemberley, with two wonderful boys, Fitzwilliam and Charles. Elizabeth and Darcy’s love is as strong as ever, as they prepare for Lady Anne’s ball (which was a ball held every year by Darcy’s mother). Elizabeth is taking over the duties of mistress of Pemberley, as is evident from her planning of the ball that Lady Anne used to throw. They are a happy family, with regular visits from Jane and Bingley and Georgiana growing up into a beautiful women who maybe getting married soon (2 candidates to choose from there). There are no major problems in their life and they are content to live the rest of their days at Pemberley. All that is bout to change when, the night before the ball. Darcy, Elizabeth, Jane, Bingley, and others are relaxing in the drawing-room, when Darcy notices a wildly careening carriage coming down the lane to Pemberley. This can only bring bad news, and all of them run to the door to find out what is wrong. The carriage opens and a hysterical Lydia falls out screaming and crying that Wickham is dead. The shock to everyone is immediate. They are all stunned as they take in the information that Wickham could be murdered (and privately they are all thinking, why the hell is Lydia here…she is never invited to Pemberley). As Lydia sobs, the story comes out. Wickham, Lydia and Captain Denny were travelling together and Lydia was going to be dropped off a Pemberley for the ball (a surprise to Elizabeth and Darcy, since she wasn’t invited) while Wickham and Denny would travel on. In the Pemberley woodlands, Denny got out of the carriage and refused to go on with Wickham. Denny walked into the woodlands and Wickham followed, all the while Lydia was screaming for them to not leave her. Minutes passed, Lydia heard gunshots and became hysterical and told the coachman to drive to Pemberley straight away. Upon mounting a search for Wickham, Darcy, along with Colonel Fitzwilliam and a young lawyer named Alverston, found Denny dead in the woods, with Wickham leaning over the body covered in blood and shouting that he had killed his friend. The body, carried, back to the house by Darcy and the Colonel, where the constable and magistrate will come to view the body. After interviewing all the guests and servants at Pemberley, the magistrate takes Wickham into custody to await an inquest (which is where it will be decided if he is guilty and will move on to a trial). Wickham, thought of as guilty at the inquest, will await trial in the spring. As the story progresses, the Darcy’s become embroiled in the scandal and are trying to learn the truth of what really happened that night. The book ends with the culmination of the trial, where we all find out what truly happened in the woods.
As I said above, I love sequels to P&P, so I try to read as many as I can. Trust me, there are some good ones out there. To me, however, Death Comes to Pemberley was not one of them. I really could just not get into this book. There was too much narrative and not enough character interaction. This book is obviously geared towards readers who have read P&P, but she spent so much time with background into the characters and the story before this story. It all felt redundant and there was too much explanation of every little detail. I read these sequels because I want the magic of P&P to continue; I want to see the characters after they got married. I don’t, however, want a story that is all narrative especially when it is narrative that I have already read. To me, the story really did not start getting interesting till pg. 195 (out of 291 page novel) when the trial began. That is when the story started progressing and you finally got the characters interacting with each other. Really, until this last part, Darcy and Elizabeth didn’t speak but more than two sentences to each other (come on!). The premise of the book was interesting, I enjoyed the macabre sense of death being brought to the wholesome world of Pemberley and Jane Austen. That is something that is not done often with sequels to P&P, so it was a good start. Yet, the book just didn’t take off. It was a slow read (it took me 5 days to read it) and I really could not get into the novel at all.
That being said, P.D. James is a good writer and she really was thoughtful in how she portrayed her Austen characters. They stayed true to the sense of Jane Austen, which is most important when writing a sequel. She is a strong writer with good skills and maybe this book can appeal to some. I just couldn’t get past the no interaction between characters. I really wanted to like this book…
Rating: 150 pages out of 500.
Upcoming: Juliet by Anne Portier and Deadlocked by Charlane Harris.