Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Pride and Prejudice was a surprise favourite of mine. Having been forced to read it (I use the term “forced” rather liberally here) as part of my university education, I was delighted with it once I finally decided that I ought to read it if I wanted to perform well in my exams. What a great romantic story with all the twists and turns and hidden information! What a read.

So, when my mother recommended that I give Death Comes to Pemberley a go, I launched myself into it with relish. And then, came down to Earth with an ungracious thump.

I tried to get into it but I just couldn’t. I felt like there was a lot of extraneous material that was trying to be in the style of Austen but just didn’t quite ring true. Austen’s narrative is lively and witty and I just didn’t get that from this at all. Generally, my rule for a book that I am not enjoying is to give it until I am 100 pages in and then, I ask myself the question, “Do I care?”, meaning “Do I care what happens to these characters or can I live with not continuing to read this book and never knowing what the outcome is?” Well, with this book, that decision was very easy to make.

I didn’t feel like Darcy and Elizabeth were really revisited. To be fair, they may have featured more in the parts of the book I never read but it didn’t feel like the book was heading that way. I don’t remember much about any of the characters really and that is telling for me because if I have a woolly knowledge of the people I have been reading about and I do not have a clear picture of them or remembrance of them, then that tells me something about the way it has been written.

For me, this was a shame. I loved Pride and Prejudice and I have loved other Jane Austen authorial spin-offs like Longbourn, regarding them warily until they win me over. But with P.D. James, I felt safe. I have read her murder mystery books before and been captivated especially the Adam Dalgleish stories and so, this almost felt like a betrayal. But it just couldn’t excite me and I viewed reading it as a chore and that can never be a good thing.

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