Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review | Such a shame, Mr Darcy!

We now leave the the foggy streets of London and take a trip to the Pemberly estate to read Death Comes To Pemberly by P D James. Have you ever wondered how Lizzie and Darcy got on after they got over their pride and buried their prejudice. (Couldn't resist, sorry) Were they happy and did they fall deeply in love? Did Lizzie honestly marry him for love because I always suspected it was money? Did Jane find out that Mr Bingley was really a closet cross dresser? I always wished that Austen wrote a sequel and here we have it. Not by Austen but by the world's leading mistress of crime - P D James. Introducing her would take an entire post, so suffice to say that if there was going to be a crime at Pemberly, she should be the best person to write. It seems not.

The Guardian's Review made me chuckle!

Despite a few lukewarm reviews and a particularly sardonic one from The Guardian , I insisted on buying it. She is after all, P D James!
It all begins at Pemberly on the night leading up to a grand ball thrown in the honor of Mr Darcy's mother. James spends an inordinate amount of time summarizing a story that we all know so bloody well that by the fifth page you you want to say  - get on with it. Finally she does. That fateful night, a series of circumstances culminate in a murder involving that villain Wickham and arrest of a possibly innocent man. What transpires after is a slow detective story that plods along, there were no detectives or resources at the time to actually solve a crime. So it falls upon Darcy and a few old magistrates to get to the bottom of this most horrible incident that has befallen upon the great house of Pemberly. What conjecture follows involves a series of unnecessary summaries of the actual event. After a while I found myself thinking, "If I hear that one more time, I will throw this book." But I couldn't because it was an IPAD; The dark side of technology. Through it all we are never given a glimpse into the marriage we so want to be a part of or the character that made Ms Bennet so formidable. She seems to have morphed into this nervous whiny society woman that needs valium. Then there is the revelation of Mr Darcy's name but really, do we need to have another character with the same name? 

The silver lining however is Mr Darcy. This is really his story and I think that is where James is most comfortable. You realize that she always understood men better. She invests time in getting to know this man and pushing his buttons so that through the plot and dialogue, what little there is, we see various shades of his otherwise stoic character come to life. His tenderness is sublime along with his insight into himself and how his weaknesses have obstructed him from actually solving the case. 

The usual cast features to some degree, including the charming Mr Bennet. The ninety-year old P D James justified this book in an interview by saying that she did not want to die in the middle of a Dalgliesh story and really wanted to write something fun. While I hope she had a complete ball because her customary technique with plot fails to deliver here as this was a book that needed some fluffy emotional dialogue and James, always preferring to keep personal feelings at the periphery, struggles to make mundane conversation. Any glimpse we had of Dalgliesh's personal life was akin to a large bar of luxurious dark chocolate, not to be overindulged in. In this case, we needed more drama, more dialogue, more masala since the deduction is quite elementary and really Pride and Prejudice was after all one of the best chick-lits of all time.

Verdict - Only for  die hard PD James fans and those who just have to read any novel involving Darcy. I think it's worth it for him. Was never a fan of Lizzie anyway!
You can buy Death comes to Pemberly here.

My suggestion is to buy yourself a beautiful hardback edition of Pride and Prejudice, worth every penny instead.

And for a taste of PD James at her best, check out our post Rainy Day Reads

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