Review: Bit of a let down for Pride and Prejudice sequel

Cold, miserable, wet day so I’m writing this review with a cup of tea beside me and the sound of rain outside. Probably appropriate weather for crime writer P.D. James’ popular new novel- a murder mystery and sequel to Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice. For someone who loves Pride and Prejudice (and the rest of Jane Austen’s works for that matter) I couldn’t wait to read this novel, but I was left feeling very disappointed. After reading around wondering if other people felt the same as I did, I found out that thousands of other Austen fans were feeling let down too.

The novel takes place shortly after the weddings of both the Bingleys and Darcys, James establishing the happy lives of Darcy, Elizabeth and their children at the grand estate of Pemberley before their lives are turned upside down. It is Elizabeth’s sister Lydia Wickham, who arrives late one evening and screams that her husband has been murdered in the Pemberley woods that sets Pemberley as the scene for a complex murder mystery. While James reveals that the charming Mr Wickham has not actually been murdered, who has and is Wickham himself actually responsible?

Death Comes to Pemberley has received mixed reviews since its publication last year, with many readers claiming that it is an insult to Austen’s work. Of course it isn’t as good as Pride and Prejudice. Obviously, because it’s Jane Austen. Continuing on from such a popular classic is also a daring thing to do and no easy feat- P.D. James is not going to be perfect. But I found that the novel overall was dull and not the pacy, thrilling read I expected; most of the narrative focuses on the murder case within the boundaries of the law, rather than being a murder mystery in which various characters are involved and must solve themselves. A strong criticism I would make that perhaps disappointed me the most is the flatness of James’ characters. Elizabeth lacks a witty and sardonic edge, which was what ultimately made her character in Pride and Prejudice memorable. She is a more passive character in the novel with none of the assertiveness or fiestiness that makes her Elizabeth Bennet. There isn’t that spark between Elizabeth and Darcy either which was what made them so attractive together as a couple.

As the murder case puts more and more pressure and tension upon the inhabitants of Pemberley, James simulatenously weaves through the narrative the worries of Darcy and Elizabeth themselves that surround Wickham; would Elizabeth have married Wickham if Darcy had not come along? And will Darcy ever be rid of Wickham and the trouble he always seems to bring with him? Fair enough, I can see why James included Darcy’s worries over Wickham. It does seem likely that he would think he will never be rid of him when he keeps surfacing in his life to cause trouble all of the time. But Elizabeth worrying if she had secretly married Darcy only for his money? I couldn’t really believe this since Elizabeth and Darcy truly love each other, at least in Pride and Prejudice.

There was one point where James’ Darcy acknowledges that he married Elizabeth despite her lack of title and wealth. No no no! To the real Mr Darcy this does not matter because he loves Elizabeth and even marries her. Does it seem likely that after the marriage he would reflect on this, when the couple are so much in love? Darcy also learned to overcome his pride in Austen’s novel, which is why he became worthy enough to marry Elizabeth. By mentioning Elizabeth’s poor circumstances, James is basically saying that Darcy has learned nothing, which is completely wrong. James may not be able to make her sequel to Pride and Prejudice perfect, however you cannot write a sequel and change the personalities of the essential characters, and it was this fact that spoiled the novel for me.

Death Comes to Pemberley could have been much better if P.D. James was a bit braver with her writing, creating a more exciting mystery and keeping Austen’s much loved characters the same.



Rating: 2/5

Do I recommend you to read it? No, because it was a disappointing read

Genre: thriller, mystery