Shades Of Words

Death Comes to Pemberley


Finally after 3 years of marriage, my husband realized that I would love to be gifted a book and gave me one for Christmas. I was visibly excited when I saw it was a PD James and curious to see how it handled the most popular romantic classic of the 19th century and probably the most spun off story in recent times – Pride & Prejudice.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery , but I am convinced that had Miss Austen been alive, she would have felt quite abused by the many versions this story has taken and how her favorite characters have progressed. Ofcourse, quality is not an issue with James, who is a credible writer in her own right, and she begins the novel quite rightly and humbly with an apology to Austen for bringing a sense of morbidity to a world created by her.

James sets the story in Pemberley, several years after the marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth, a few days before the traditional autumn ball. The Wickhams are still estranged from the family and on the eve of the ball, Lydia Wickham makes a dramatic entrance into the Pemberly driveway yelling “ My husband has been murdered !”

Now, one would expect that this would set up the tone for a juicy murder investigation where at least Darcy or Elizabeth would take up a sleuthing role and try to find clues and fit pieces together. But that is not the case.

Using P&P as the prologue to this novel really ties James hands down in terms of plot. A lot of the narrative is spent paraphrasing events from the original novel and explaining the context of the relationship of main characters. Even though she clearly has had fun imagining what happened to the lives of ancillary characters like Mary Bennet, Mr. Collins, Charlotte Collins, Kitty Bennet, Mr, Bingly after P&P ended, most of that has very little to do with the plot. The character growth of some the main players is constrained by what we already know about them and does not fit very well into a murder mystery kind of novel.

The third person narrative is slow, often introspective and has very little to do with the murder at most times.  There is a lot of focus on Darcy’s position in society, his relationship with Wickham, the relationships of the family in general.  PD James has introduced some new characters especially with respect to the Pemberely household but none of them interesting enough to leave an impression.

At the end of it as a reader, you don’t care who died, how he was killed, why he was killed and how was the murderer found out. Not much point to reading the book then, is there?

Unless, I am getting it all wrong and this is not a murder mystery and a period novel in which someone just dies.


Author: Vipula

Before talking about who we are, we’d like to tell you a bit about how and why Shades of Words came into being. It all started with the idea of “A place where we could share with likeminded people about things we enjoy. From books to music to movies to travel; Shades of Words was to be a place about the best of our experiences” We thought about why should anyone read us? The answer was that whatever we review would be a mix of our experience of the thing along with interesting and useful information about it. So in case you are reading us regularly or even checking us out once in a while then we have succeeded in our efforts someway somewhere. Who are we? Known as Kapil Sood and Vipula Gupta, we thought of Shades of Words on one fine Sunday afternoon. Tired of writing interesting RFP’s and project documentation; we decided to give this a shot. Yes! We work in Indian IT industry. Cupid struck us while were innocently slogging together on the highly intricate job of formatting and beautifying documents! And since then, we have been working together to establish Shades of Words as a place that we can claim as ours. (Because buying a house is still years away!) What else? Kapil also writes some blogs which you can read here and here.

8 thoughts on “Death Comes to Pemberley

  1. I had forgotten that you had a tremendous talent for writing. Well done..

  2. So Kapil finally realized that you would love to be gifted a book huh 🙂 that’s sweet! My first thoughts were that P D James would’ve introduced a new detective into the P&P novel or atleast set it in a modern day context with Dagliesh as the detective. Sad that it doesn’t have a good mystery in it and there was no credible detective involved. I’d have liked Agatha Christie to use this setting for Hercule Poirot…sadly though she and her character are happily buried aren’t they!

  3. loved the post. Esp. the way you started it 😀

  4. @Vaishakhi – thank you !
    @Zoya – yes he was quite an average read
    @Radhika – hehe thank you!

  5. That prologue was dreadful, wasn’t it? And I agree, what’s the point if the reader doesn’t care who was killed or how and why? And if it is just a period piece and not a mystery then it fails miserably at that too.

  6. Stefanie – Thanks for making the time to read this. Yes it was quite a bad book..and you are right its quite contrived as a period piece too

  7. Well, a murder based off P&P is not one I want to read about. Somehow P&P is too sacred a piece of writing for me, that any kind of spin off would feel like a mockery being made of it. And from your review, it seems like P.D James did just that 😦

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