Confession: I actually checked out the e-book version of this from my local library twice, for two separate plane rides earlier this fall, and I didn’t read it either time before it expired. Then, the other day I was really in need of some new reading material and I saw it at the bookstore, so I picked it up. I figured at least this way I could read it whenever I got around to it 🙂
I went into this book not really expecting much, because I had heard from several reviews that it wasn’t very good. I will be the first to acknowledge that I’ve never been a die-hard Jane Austen fan; in fact it’s only in the last two or three years that I’ve read her books and bought a Pride and Prejudice dvd (the one with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, of course.)
You can definitely tell the difference between Austen’s writing style and that of P.D. James. While in general the tone of the book fit with the original Pride and Prejudice, there were sentences that jumped out at me as being very modern – not that the words themselves were anachronistic, but the phrases and how they are used was very indicative of modern speech as opposed to the flowery, oblique style of Austen’s original works.
I think James came up with a very compelling version of the characters’ lives after the events of Pride and Prejudice. I actually found myself agreeing with who was married and who was not, where they lived and how often they saw each other, to the point where I forgot that these things were being chosen by a completely different author and not Austen herself. However, I wasn’t ecstatic about the reveal of the perpetrator and their motive, which I thought was rather shallow (trying hard to avoid the spoilers here) or the final disposition of Lydia and Wickham, but overall it was OK. All in all, I think it was a pleasant way to spend a few hours, and I would certainly read another novel if James decided to do something similar for the characters of Emma or Sense and Sensibility. This isn’t a book I’ll rave about and suggest to everyone I know (like I do with The Rook) but it was enjoyable.
If you liked this book, I highly recommend watching Lost in Austen, which I found hilarious. It’s a re-make of Pride and Prejudice, but with the wrinkle that a modern-day girl gets pulled into the story and ends up changing everything while trying to make sure things happen as they were written in the book. It’s probably not for die-hard Austen fans, as many liberties are taken with the story, and you should be warned that it’s rather long (just under 3 hours) but I’ve watched it at least twice and I’m very sad that it’s no longer available for instant streaming on Netflix.
Did you enjoy Death Comes to Pemberley? Are there any other novels a casual Austen fan should read?