Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James

Click on cover to see Goodreads blurb

Click on cover to see Goodreads blurb

Why I have it: I picked this up when browsing in Waterstones with my mom. We’ve recently rewatched the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and when mom read the back of this and realised why the Pemberly of the title sounded so familiar we both got excited and eager to sink back in what is one of my favourite fictional worlds.

Main Review:

I didn’t immediately realise it was a crime novel, other than the obvious fact that the blurb says that Lydia believes Wickam, her husband, has been murdered. Obviously if I was familiar with P.D. James’ work at all I would have realised but alas I’m not.  That didn’t put me off reading the book as I do like and have reviewed crime novels in the past but it genuinely is just a crime novel, with very little added by the fact that Austen’s characters are used.  It is not even as deep as a crime novel should be due to the fact that she fails to go deeply into any of the characterisations and some characters are conveniently sent out of the room at odd intervals so that she doesn’t have to find a position for them in the ensuing ‘action’ (I use that word unwillingly). I did not find it to be very intricate or clever though others may find some of the revelations at the end to be more surprising than I ultimately did. Largely I feel like I read a detailed summary of a crime and a court case which the addition of Austen’s characters added little to.

I found it repetitive in trivial details which seemed to be an indiosyncracy of the author, though having not read James’ work widely or at all other than this novel I cannot confirm this. There was also several instances where information known by one character or worse still the omnipresent author would be inherited by another character. I was often left trying to figure out when Elizabeth and Darcy had had time to exchange information in particular, as they kept mentioning how little time they had to confide in each other. The exchanges between some characters was stilted and there were missed opportunities to delve deeper into relationships and characterisations which is the main point of reviving long set to rest characters is it not? Without spoiling the story the interactions of certain characters who have serious fissures in their past relationship were literally brushed over unceremoniously. In particular Lydia has maybe 5 lines in the entire novel which considering the premise of the plot is unfathomable.

There is evidence of extensive research into the social constructs of the time and the way the court system worked however characters who have little to no knowledge of the legal court occasionally become mouthpieces for what is evidently the authors views on how the court system of the time could have been improved. There is also mentions of Mary Wollstonecraft works which at first seems like a clever and enlightened way of showing the type of conversation which may have been had at the time but on further reflection is more of an unnecessary nod to what the author has read about the period.

Of course all in all it was amazing to delve into the world so magically formed by Austen so long ago. I am a recent but avid fan of her work and was delighted to dip back into the world of Pemberly in particular…I mean Mr. Darcy and Lizzie are magical together, I just wish this incarnation of them had been more successful as a whole.

As an added bonus there is a brief description of the interaction of characters of Pride and Prejudice with those of Persuasion and Emma, which was bizarre and frankly unnecessary in the case of Persuasion as it doesn’t add to either story and gives little depth of knowledge of those characters that a cursory reading wouldn’t gleam and is only slightly more successful in the case of Emma.

I gave it three stars on my Goodreads because though this review (like many of my reviews :/) concentrates on what was bad about the book it did have good qualities. I almost always love a book as I read it (otherwise honestly why would I bother reading it) but then have to sit down and reflect on it so that I don’t end up giving five stars to everything I read when they just don’t deserve it (in my opinion of course).  There is a lot of the start of the book given over to summaries of what happened in Pride and Prejudice which for me seems unnecessary as I can’t imagine why someone who hadn’t read the original text would want to read a glorified sequel. Though I have said that there isn’t a lot of depth given to any of the characters in the start surrounding the summaries is little snip bits of what James believes happened to these characters after Austen stopped chronicling their lives. Though she later looses me when she starts over analysing and in my eyes villainising innocent characters from the original book these first pages truly won me over and were what I wanted when I bought the book. Ultimately though I was tempted to just give it two stars I gave it three because I enjoyed the experience of reading it. It was engaging despite being at times too concentrated on the actual court case.

Rating: 3/5

What I’m reading now: The girl with the Pearl Earring, though this may change as I haven’t totally engaged with it yet.

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Late Declaration of Reading Plans for 2014

I’ve been wanting to write this post since I posted my first haul more than a week ago but college demanded that it be delayed somewhat. Like so many other book bloggers out there, Goodreads has become invaluable to me overory gilmore challenger the years in helping me to compile lists of the books I’ve read, books I want to read and just lists  of books in general (God I love lists! :P). So it’s not surprising that I’m entering into their book challenge for my fourth consecutive year. I successfully read 36 books in 2013 and only challenged myself to read 30. I was more than surprised that I read as much as I did over the year because I spent the summer away from home in New York, working. Despite being incredibly busy and unable to bring a lot of paperbacks with me, a 2 hour daily commute and my trusty Kindle meant that I surpassed my own expectations. This year, while I hope to get a job, it won’t be in another country so I should have a lot more time to read. Therefore, I’m setting my challenge for 40 books. I failed to read that many books when I set it as my goal in 2012 but I was under a lot of pressure to study for exams in the first six months of that year so I forgive myself :).

I promised a reading list of some sort that would map out my reading for the next year and I sat down today and compiled it. It’s not exhaustive and it’s open to change but I either have to (for college) or want to read all of these in the next 12 months and I’ve left 9 spaces free for books I just pick up (or more likely books for the next semester of college).

The List is as follow:

College Books

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. Emma by Jane Austen
  4. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  5. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  6. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  7. York Mystery Plays
  8. The Knight of the Burning Pestle
  9. The Revenger’s Tragedy
  10. The Alchemist and other plays
  11. Anthony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
  12. As you Like it by William Shakespeare
  13. The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
  14. The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare

Pleasure

  1. As I live Now by Meg Rosoff
  2. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  3. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  4. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  5. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  6. This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl and Earl Family
  7. The Fault in Our Stars (while it won’t count towards the Goodreads challenge as it is a re-read I can’t resist reading it before seeing the film in June)
  8. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  9. Eon by Alison Goodman
  10. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
  11. Are You Somebody? Nuala O’Faolain
  12. The Cather in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  13. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  14. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David
  15. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  16. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  17. The sonnets by William Shakespeare

I also stumbled across a reading challenge called ‘The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge’ recently on two blogs which I’ve linked: NJC Novella and Blogs-of-a-bookaholic. Basically a list has been compiled of all the books which the character of Rory Gilmore either read or mentioned during the seven seasons of The Gilmore Girls . She was a veracious reader and I loved the series when I was growing up so it seemed like the perfect challenge to start with. I’ve gone through the list and marked the ones I want to read in purple and the ones I have read in blue however changing the colour of font on WordPress is beyond my abilities so I’ve just added two separate lists below (edit: I’ve since learned how to do it but this way works too). There are a number of books that I want to read this year and there are a lot that I have no intention of ever reading but my personal challenge is to eventually read the books off the list that I have indicated below.

Books to read for the challenge

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – 2014 TBR
  2. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  3. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  4. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – 2014 TBR
  5. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  6. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger – 2014 TBR
  7. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  8. A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
  9. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père
  10. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  11. The Da Vinci -Code by Dan Brown
  12. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  13. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  14. Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
  15. Emma by Jane Austen – started to read but didn’t finish – 2014 TBR
  16. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  17. The Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1 of The Lord of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
  18. Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
  19. George W. Bushism: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President by Jacob Weisberg
  20. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  21. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  22. Henry IV, part I by William Shakespeare
  23. Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare
  24. Henry V by William Shakespeare
  25. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  26. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  27. Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
  28. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  29. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
  30. The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
  31. Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  32. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris – 2014 TBR
  33. The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
  34. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  35. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  36. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – 2014 TBR
  37. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  38. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  39. Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
  40. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – 2014 TBR
  41. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
  42. The Return of the King: The Lord of the Rings Book 3 by J. R. R. Tolkien
  43. Several Biographies of Winston Churchill
  44. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – Started to read but didn’t finish 2013
  45. The Sonnets by William Shakespeare – 2014 TBR
  46. The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare – 2014 TBR
  47. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  48. Ulysses by James Joyce
  49. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
  50. Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
  51. The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

Books I’ve read for the Challenge

  1. 1984 by George Orwell – read February & March 2011
  2. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – Childhood read
  3. Atonement by Ian McEwan – Read December 2010-June 2012 repeatedly for school
  4. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney – Read April 2013
  5. The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer – Read December 2012
  6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon – Read July 2012 –Reviewed
  7. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – Read August 2013 and again in November for College
  8. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Read August 2011
  9. Hamlet by William Shakespeare – Read September 2010 to June 2012 repeatedly for school
  10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling – Childhood read
  11. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling – Childhood Read
  12. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini –  Read January 2013
  13. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – Childhood read
  14. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Childhood read
  15. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold  – Read October & November 2010
  16. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – read January 2012
  17. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – Read March 2012
  18. Othello by Shakespeare – Read unwisely read during my leaving cert J – June 2012
  19. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – Read March 2013
  20. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – Read 2012
  21. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe – Read June 2011
  22. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare – Read March 2013
  23. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – Read January 2014
  24. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – Read June 2012
  25. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Read 2008- June 2010 repeatedly for school
  26. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – Read October 2010

Books I’m not interested in currently from the challenge list (there are a lot hence the cut)

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