In Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James executes a vicious assault on Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen and all those who love them.
There's a vicious murder on the grounds of Pemberley, and if you manage to care after 250 pages, then more power to you. For the murder occurs, then Colonel Fitzwilliam recounts the incident, then he and Darcy recount the incident at the inquest. And in case you're not thoroughly bored, there's also a trial, wherein we hear the same story yet again.
Meanwhile, lifeless, witless, self-regarded gold-digger Elizabeth Bennet sticks to the shadows, behaving like the dutiful, conservative women she has never been. Why, P.D., why?
The essential transformation of Elizabeth might have been acceptable if James doesn't herself establish that a) the novel only picks up 6 years afterP&P and b) she makes it clear that Lizzie is having the time of her life, completely free of hardship.
But wait! James isn't content with dragging our beloved P&Pers into this disaster! Poor Harriet Smith, Robert Martin, Sir Walter Elliot and the Knightleys all appear in this mess.
Even that isn't enough. She has to throw in irritating meta comments.
If this were fiction, could even the most brilliant novelist contrive to make credible so short a period in which pride had been subdued and prejudice overcome?
A ha ha ha ha ha...yes.
Now, let me take you on a journey through exposition city:
"Fitzwilliam listened in silence, then said, 'You are mounting quite an impressive expedition to satisfy one hysterical woman I daresay the fools have lost themselves in the woodland, or one of them has tripped over a tree root and sprained an ankle. They are probably even now limping to Pemberly or the King's Arms, but if the coachman also heard shots we had better go armed. I'll get my pistol and join you in the chaise. If the stretcher is needed you could do with an extra man and a horse would be an encumbrance if we hae to go into the depths of the woodland, which seems likely. I will bring my pocket compass. Two grown men getting themselves lost like children is stupid enough, five would be ridiculous."
Did you get that? No? Then repeat after me: SHUT UP, FITZWILLIAM!
And then there's so many lectures on "social justice".
"Ignoring him, Georgina turned to Darcy. 'You need have no anxiety. Please do not ask me to leave. I only wish to be of use to Elizabeth and I hope I can be. I cannot see that there is any impropriety in that.'
It was then that Alveston intervened. 'Forgive me, sir, but I feel I must speak. You discuss what Miss Darcy should do as if she were a child. We have entered the nineteenth century; we do not need to be a disciple of Mrs Wollstonecraft to feel that women should not be denied a voice in matters that concern them. It is some centuries since we accepted that woman has a soul. Is it not time that we accepted that she also has a mind?'
Hey guys, remember how Jane Austen was kind of funny? How she'd couch serious social issues in compelling drama and lively wit?
Ok, I will cease the assassination of this novel, out of respect to the reader.
But when Darcy starts lecturing about the morality of the death penalty, I rolled my eyes so high that the heavens could not have missed my irritation. When the servants polish the 8 millionth candlestick, imagine poor me, resisting the urge to throw my Kindle against the wall.
You can file this one under "legally protected terrible ideas."
*I wish I'd come up with that graphic, but full credit goes to The Guardian. If you think I'm being harsh, you should read that review.