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Death Comes to Pemberley

January 10, 2012

I never read sequels written by authors who write about characters who were not originally their own. It just seems so wrong to me, to hijack another author’s character and write books about them. I love Gone with the Wind but will never read Scarlett. I love Rebecca but you’ll not find me picking up Mrs. Dewinter. Nor will you find me reading the plethora of sequels by various authors to Jane Austen’s beloved books.

First of all, in most cases if Mitchell, du Maurier, and Austen had wanted to have written more about those characters, they probably would have. Secondly, it just seems like a horrible marketing act and grasp at fame by authors who want to make money off of another person’s character.

However, when I saw that Death Comes to Pemberley was coming out, I decided to risk giving it a try. And that was simply because P. D. James wrote it.

I absolutely love James’ Adam Dalgliesh crime series. I’m not one who usually reads crime, but James’ writing is engaging, pulling you into the lives of the various characters that people her mysteries. Also, Detective Dalgliesh has his own sad past to deal with. Her plots are interesting, descriptions intriguing, and characters fascinating. And I love that her novels are primarily character-driven, versus plot driven.

But, I have to say Death Comes to Pemberley let me down.

First, it took a very long time for anything to actually happen. There’s lot of background explanation. Understandably, James recaps Pride and Prejudice within the first several chapters, just in case you don’t know the story and have no idea as to Elizabeth and Darcy’s history. But, that creates a first few chapters that simply drag.

Second, because it’s about Jane Austen characters, you can’t help compare it to Jane Austen’s writing. And Austen’s writing just sparkles. Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison, but I don’t think you can help it. She’s witty and clever. There’s lots of dialogue and very little description. In this novel there was lots of description and very little dialogue. At one point I found myself wondering if any of the characters were ever going to have a conversation! And when I compared this book to James’ other writing, it felt stifled. Perhaps that’s because James felt like she was treading on sacred ground with these characters, she wasn’t being her true self as a writer. I don’t know, but it this novel lacked aspects that I love about James’ usual fiction. Instead the descriptions were flat and characters also felt like they lacked dimension.

Third, the mystery just didn’t grab me. I just wasn’t spellbound by the plot. I really didn’t care about what happened to Wickham, who was on trial for murder.

All in all, I’m sorry to say the novel was basically lackluster to me. I really wanted to like it.

Have any of you read this novel? What were your thoughts?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2012 1:55 pm

    I’m reading this right now. I’m in book two, part 1, so Lydia has just arrived! I think I decided not to think James and Austen the whole way through…I’m just going along for the ride. So far, it’s my mindless, get me to sleep at night book. I love both authors and truly hoped this would work, but like you, I’m a bit disappointed, but not surprised.

    Did you see her new Adam Dalgliesh? I really can’t wait to read that one. It’s already on my Kindle waiting 🙂 .

    • January 10, 2012 2:10 pm

      I hope I didn’t ruin anything for you, Laurie! A new Dalgliesh? What’s the name? The last one I know of is The Private Patient and when I searched I couldn’t find anything newer.

  2. January 10, 2012 3:38 pm

    I haven’t read this yet, but when I do I will be ready for the disappointment. I was already aware that it might not be as good as I hope! Like Laurie I think I will try to just go along for the ride.

    I will also be looking into the Adam Dalgliesh, you’ve made them sound very intriguing! I’ve not read much by P. D. James, so will look forward to it!

    • January 11, 2012 9:06 am

      Thanks for stopping by! I loved checking out your blog too!

  3. January 13, 2012 2:27 pm

    I was thinking about checking this book out, based on a review a heard on NPR, so thanks for the 2nd review. 🙂

    I have tried reading a variety of the different P&P sequels, and the good lot of them are downright awful.

    HOWEVER, I LOVE Pamela Aidan’s series which is from Darcy’s point of view. I feel like she makes an effort to write at the same quality level as Austen. The series starts with “An Assembly Such as This”. I have all three books from the series, and if you’re interested, I’d be happy to lend them to you.

  4. Bethany permalink
    January 13, 2012 3:34 pm

    Thanks Danielle. I trust your review and won’t bother with at at least at this stage in my life. I love all these book reviews friends do. Cause for me with limited time there is nothing I hate more than reading a book and not really enjoying it at the end. HA HA. I’m selfish with my spare time now so I feel ripped off.

    PS I am still working on my book review. Had a life blow this week so it might be another week or two.

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