Monday, March 27, 2017

Death Comes to Pemberley

Book:  Death Comes to Pemberley
Basic Information : Synopsis : Thoughts : Evaluation : Book Group : New Words  : Good Quotes : Table of Contents : References

Basic Information:
Author: PD James
Edition:  eBook on Overdrive from the Mountain View Public Library
Read: March 27, 2017
304 pages
Genre:  Fiction, Jane Austen
Rated: 3 out of 5
(Spoiler Alert)

James gives an overview of what happens in Pride and Prejudice. Very useful for those of us who are not as familiar with Jane Austen. Then she moves on to her story with the characters from Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth, Darcy, Captain Denny, and of course, Wickham.  James takes you into the life of Permberley, eight years into Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage. They are resuming a long standing ball with Darcy’s mother instituted, but was stopped after her death.

Then Elizabeth’s sister, Lydia, comes in and says he is dead! Meaning Wickham. Instead it is Captain Denny who died with Wickham being the main culprit.If you expect then Elizabeth or Darcy to be the people looking into this death, you would be wrong. It goes through the various levels of English justice. James leads us through the inquest and the trial and conviction of Wickham. Here you might say, good riddance to Wickham and poor Lydia.

Instead, James throws in an out of the blue confession and a prolonged drama of Wickham’s conviction being overturned. The book finishes up with a conversation between Elizabeth and Darcy about how did they ever come together.

Many times love of a story or author interferes with telling a good sequel to the story, even if the writing has talent. I think there is too much of a desire to be authentic and to do good quality work when there is love involved. But that same love gets in the way of being objective to your own work.

James does have an interesting concept about how a sequel would be done. She just puts too much labour, trying to be modern, but sounding like Austen.

Prologue: The Bennets of Longbourn
Who would want to have that this agreeable face opposite you at the breakfast table for the rest of your life? Just an interesting comment about any future Mrs. Darcy.

There is a page where James talks about Mr. Bennet, particularly his love of a library. Darcy had a fine one, which Mr. Bennet availed himself too. Some of the books best phrases are found on this page. That Darcy and Bennet both thought each other superior because of each other's various quirks. Also they both enjoyed building Bingley library, with his money,  of course

Here is where you can tell that James is a modern write rather than living in Jane Austen’s time. James notes that It had been a revelation to Elizabeth that there were men who valued intelligence in a woman. That is one of the central points of Pride and Prejudice. But I do not recall Austen saying it so bluntly.

Book One: The day before the ball
What is the needs of a young man? well mannered, intelligent, lively and good looking. That is the description of Henry Alveston, an up and coming lawyer who would like to marry Mr Darcy’s sister.

Book Two: The body in the woodland
Two medical observation does James’ doctor make about human nature:
  1. the human body had a natural tendency to heal itself if patients and doctors did not conspire to interfere
  2. a patient’s relatives are less trouble if they are kept busy in the sufferer’s interest

Book Four: The inquest
There are moments of humor. Such as even the most fastidious among us can rarely escape hearing salacious local gossip, it is as well to enjoy what cannot be avoided. Acknowledging we do love to here bad things about others, even if we feel less of ourselves for hearing it.

It is never so difficult to congratulate a friend on her good fortune than when that fortune appears undeserved.

There is a note about managing husbands-not Elizabeth, but her friend Charlotte. Charlotte provided an easy way to do things and her husband followed that path, blindly. Interesting thoughts from a woman author. Wonder what the reaction would have been if it was a male author with a husband manipulating his wife to do things.

There is a comment that the servants never did without food, shelter or clothing at the Pemberley. Enlightened management???

Book Six: Gracechurch Street
...any letter which contains information which should never be generally known ought to be destroyed; there is no other security. In today’s climate, this would be questioned. On the other hand I think there is more of a wish to do bad things in secret than in those days. The Colonel only wanted to protect confidences which in this day and age seems more quaint than sinister.

Yesterday they had only known that they were happy; now they felt joy’s irradiating power in each nerve of their being. Different between  knowing and feeling it.

There is a sense of whatever will be will be if you are separated from a situation which you if you were closer, you might feel an obligation to be part of the solution. Said about Wickham being in America and his wife flirting with others.

Does great danger make you more cautious or does it give you a sense of infallibility and that you will always come out of a situation unscathed.

When looking for a governess for Darcy’s sister, both Darcy and the other trustee got seduced because the person gave them what they were looking for rather than being objective about who the person is. This is easily done at any age.

There is a statement that we are no longer the people we once were. That is a gift to recognize both in ourselves and especially in others. It is something to see the progress or digress each of us have had as we travel through life.

 You would think that a talented writer such as PD James who has an obvious love for Jane Austen that there would be a good possibility of a book which is very good and enjoyable. Instead this semi-mystery gave me  sense of when will this book ever end. While James’ writing is good, not great, the story she tells drags with the introspection of Elizabeth and Darcy. Then gets interspersed with drama of a surprise twist. These twists seem to be out of the blue and too staged to be in the flow of the book.

If you are looking for a PD James book to read, read on of her other ones. This would be a passable book for most authors, but not for someone of James’ storytelling skills.  You would be better off reading more of Jane Austen if you want a Pride and Prejudice fix.
Notes from my book group:
Some people in my book group saw the movies and they thought it was pretty dreadful.

New Words:
  • pastiche: Not really part of the book, but the definition is a work of art in the style of another. In this case, PD James is writing in the pastiche, the style, of Jane Austen
  • Coterie (Prologue):  a small group of people with shared interests or tastes, especially one that is exclusive of other people.
  • Lorgnettes (Prologue ):  a pair of glasses or opera glasses held in front of a person's eyes by a long handle at one side.
  • paradigm (Book One): A paradigm is a standard, perspective, or set of ideas. A paradigm is a way of looking at something.
  • divertissements (Book Two): a minor entertainment or diversion.
  • invidious (Book Two): (of an action or situation) likely to arouse or incur resentment or anger in others.
  • stertorous (Book Two): (of breathing) noisy and labored
  • perfidy (Book Two): deceitfulness; untrustworthiness
  • frisson (Book Four):  a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill.
  • landaulet (Book Four): It was based on a carriage of similar style that was a cut-down (coupé) version of a landau
  • chatelaine (Book Four): a woman in charge of a large house.gyves (Book Four):
  • obdurate (Book Six):  stubbornly refusing to change one's opinion or course of action.

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: it was generally agreed by the female residents of Merton that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet of Longbourn had been fortunate in the disposal in marriage of four of their five daughters.
  • Last Line:  together they got up from the bench and stood watching while Georgiana and Alverston, their happy laughter  rising above the constant music of the stream,  their hands still linked, came running to them across the shining grass. 
    It is never so difficult to congratulate a friend on [their] good fortune than when that fortune appears undeserved. (Book Four)

Table of Contents:
  • Prologue: The Bennets of Longbourn
  • Book One: The day before the ball
  • Book Two: The body in the woodland
  • Book Three: Police at Pemberley
  • Book Four: The inquest
  • Book Five: The trial
  • Book Six: Gracechurch Street
  • Epilogue


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