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A Sequel for Jane Austen   Leave a comment

I imagine it’s entirely possible to enjoy Death Comes to Pemberley even if, heaven for-
bid, you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice; but I especially appreciate P.D. James’s latest
mystery because I do know about the Bennet and Darcy families. The novel begins six years
after Jane Austen’s Elizabeth and Darcy are married.

A few new minor characters are introduced, but James, for the most part, extends the lives
of those created by Austen in a completely believable manner: the Darcys have two young
boys; Jane and Bingley are regular visitors to Pemberley, the Darcy estate; and Wickham,
the troublemaker in the original work has a similar role, with his wife Lydia not far behind
in her ability to exasperate.

The story begins on the eve of the annual ball overseen by Elizabeth as she continues a
tradition started by Darcy’s mother. The preparations are interrupted when an uninvited,
hysterical Lydia appears believing Wickham has been shot nearby. The characters’ react-
ion to this news, subsequent discoveries, and a trial in London’s Old Bailey are sheer en-
tertainment. In James’s hands, the story is plausible. The characters react just as one
would expect of proper, early 19th century British gentry. Family obligations and public
perceptions dictate their behavior.

The numerous and recent spinoffs, including combining zombies with Pride and Prejudice,
even if only meant to introduce or reacquaint readers to Jane Austin, have never appealed
to me. However, James has created something completely original from classic literature
without diminishing appreciation for Austen’s writing.
Death Comes to Pemberley”
Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
291 Pages

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