Can a sequel to a classic novel be a good thing? Death Comes to Pemberley – PD James

I am finding now before I write my reviews that I cannot resist reading the Guardian’s Digested Read’s take on the books I am reviewing and I have to say it is absolutely spot on for this book, in fact for Christmas I requested and got two collections of these that I will review soon.  My advice is if you can’t be bothered to read this book (or many others) just read that instead.

This is the second  book  I have reviewed this year which was inspired by  Pride and  Prejudice, the first being the appalling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  This is fortunately not as bad but was still a bit of a disappointment.

My fundamental problem is whether sequels to classic novels can be a good thing.  I enjoyed Wide Sargasso Sea and would like to read Mrs De Winter but am at a loss to think of any others that are any good.

Now PD James is my guilty pleasure for when I just want an easy murder mystery and I love Pride and Prejudice so really I should have loved this book and I was very pleased to receive it as a Christmas present.  However it has lost all the brilliant elements of Pride and Prejudice and the good elements of PD James murder mystery.  I was so disappointed that I researched some reviews and they all seem to be excellent  – have I missed something or is PD James just a sacred cow?

The plot concerns the murder of Captain Denny whose body is discovered next to a bloodstained Wickham who seems to be confessing to the crime.  The book introduces a poor family in the wood and then largely carries on in a non cliffhanger vein, in which PD James keeps reminding the reader of the plot of Pride and Prejudice and showing off her research of the early 19th century legal system.  A particular drawback is that Darcy and Elizabeth seem to spend about 10 pages together in total in the book and she has just become a very boring wife, maybe this is why sequels are a mistake. The end is a general anticlimax, overall a disappointing experience.

I will finish with an excerpt of Digested Read;

“Much as I have come to distrust Mr Wickham over the years,” said Mr Darcy, “I cannot bring myself to believe he is a man capable of such a brutal murder.”

“And we all know that a man of your nobility’s judgment is bound to be right in these matters,” said Colonel Fitzwilliam. “Yet I fear we must endure many pages of expository narration in which minor characters in whom the reader has little interest reveal details of the crime until the jury inevitably reaches the wrong conclusion.”



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5 responses to “Can a sequel to a classic novel be a good thing? Death Comes to Pemberley – PD James

  1. Sophie

    I agree with much of what you write! You decide on how the characters live after a novel, or you leave it to the confines of the book’s pages. To have someone pull a fast one and turn the woman boring and predicable is very unsatisfactory and from PD James. I have to say I have found her detective novels a little dull and have always thought I was missing something. But as for the digested read – it is so cutting you feel there may be a cynical failed novelist there! However, for the ones you have read you see the truth of what he writes. And… where are you finding all this time to read?

    • Christmas holidays are for reading! The reasons why many novels end with the characters getting married is it all goes downhill and gets boring from then!!! Some of her detective novels are good, although there are a couple of boring ones, I would agree with that.

  2. Michèle Moolchan

    Kerry, read the book and couldn’t agree with you more. It’s not much of a story and the writing style deterioates badly as the book goes on. Even seemingly tiny things, like one of the male characters exclaiming, “Stupid girls!” when “Foolish girls/women!” would’ve been much more appropriate, really got my goat. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy!

  3. Pingback: Book Review: Death Comes to Pemberley | bostonwriters

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