Death Comes to Pemberley… and I Resurrect Pride and Prejudice

Just five days ago, I gave up on re-reading Pride and Prejudice. And I was totally okay with that. And if this was your project, and you did that, I would not judge you at all.

But I can’t quit.

Maybe I just needed an Austen break. Maybe reading Death Comes to Pemberley reignited my drive. Whatever it was, I realized this morning that I just could not compromise on my original plan for this project.

So, I’m back on board with Pride and Prejudice. With a little over a month left, I have quite a bit of reading to do. Luckily, my little introverted heart needs a break from all the socializing and coast-hopping and is screaming for me to just have a couple nights in to relax.

But let’s go back and talk about Death Comes to Pemberley. This novel picks up the story of Elizabeth and Darcy, six years later, happily settled at Pemberley with two beautiful children and a happy life punctuated with, of course, family drama here and there. Though she is not particularly welcomed to Pemberley, Lydia shows up in the middle of the night before an annual ball, and plunges our favorite characters into a murder mystery.

I was happily impressed with the continuity of story. It felt seamless, often referencing small plot points from Pride and Prejudice. At times, though, I felt that James challenged how I understood these characters. Elizabeth became less romantic and mused on how financial considerations impacted her past decisions. Charlotte is suddenly less sympathetic and a bit devious. And Darcy is now quite thoughtful and romantic! I don’t know that these characterizations are wrong, and I might also be far too influenced by the BBC adaptation, but it just felt “off” at times to me.

I also have very little interest in reading contemporary mystery novels. While this retained the language and writing style of Jane Austen, there were too many features of modern storytelling that frustrated me. For example, the same details, around the events of the murder in question, were repeated numerous times. Occasionally, this was done to illustrate how one person’s recollection varies from another, or to introduce a small piece of information not previously known. More often, though, I felt like I was suffering through another three-page retelling of “what happened that night” without any payoff.

Yet, this was a quick read and it was fun. The requisite twists were surprising, though not shocking. I didn’t feel any compulsion to keep reading as I do in my best experiences but I did not have to force myself to get through the story. I certainly do not feel any worse off having read it, if that’s a recommendation at all.

Verdict: if you love pride and prejudice, it’s a cute read; good for beach days or rainy weekends

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