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Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley - P.D. James Although I realize that this book is a tribute to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I believe, that as a beautifully crafted novel, it can stand completely on its own. I think fans of P. D. James will not be disappointed if they read it, noting its references to Austen’s characters, but then, simply judging the novel based on it being a well written mystery, encompassing romance, intrigue, deception and murder. If the reader is looking for edge of the seat tension, vampires, the supernatural, cool language and sarcasm, this is not the book to choose.

In addition, some books are more appreciated by the ear, than the eye, and I think this is one that should be heard. I listened to an audio book and I found that the reader artfully expressed each sentence with the appropriate amount of emotion and the written language of this book translated wonderfully into the spoken word. Every word on the page seemed carefully chosen to create a particular image, and every sentence created a mood. I found the prose exceptional and true to the age in which the book is placed. As a novel about English life in the early part of the 19th century, it exceeded my expectations. It was easy to feel the mood of the time and experience the distinctions of the cultural differences between the classes. The arrogance of those to the manor born, contrasted completely to the subservience of those who served them. Each and every one of the characters seemed to know their defined place in life and what was expected of them. Whether or not they adhered to it was another story. I thought the author accurately caught the nuances of the character’s personalities, as they would be in that time period.

Although I thought the characters were well drawn, there was one drawback. I felt that the reader was not able to create a discernibly different voice for each of them. However, it was generally not difficult to ascertain who was speaking from the accent, inflection and projected tone of voice. Listening to the novel, I wished that we addressed each other with the same exquisite manners, courtesy and respect as those characters. How civilized, how prized was the use of the English language! How easy it was to comprehend the meaning of their statements, whether written or spoken! Their conversations and correspondence were not meant to impress with its “hipness”, but really meant to communicate sincere meaning and to exchange ideas politely.

Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are very proper. They are the epitome of English aristocracy, and behave accordingly, with the affectations and expectations of the privileged class. The night before a ball aptly named years before, for Fitzwilliam’s deceased mother, Lady Anne, tragedy strikes. What follows, brings turmoil, grief and misfortune to the household. This is perhaps another weak point of the story, since this theme is more implied, but not as carefully developed. The courtroom scenes were indicative of the way trials were conducted and the inequities of the justice system were illustrated well. Complicated by staff secrets, outcast relatives, family tension and discord, the future looks difficult and grim for the Darcy’s, and possibly for those they are responsible for on their estate, but all are determined to weather the storm with dignity and respect, attending to those in need of their help, performing their duties and maintaining as normal an appearance is possible, under the circumstances. With twists and turns, involving the secrets and surreptitious behavior of many of the characters, the mystery evolves in unexpected ways. Perhaps since I am not a connoisseur of Austen’s novels, I thoroughly enjoyed it more than an aficionado would have done. It did not disappoint me.