Top positive review
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Excellent and erudite, emotionally satisfying
on 26 August 2015
OK, let me put my cards on the table. I have never read any of Baroness James novels, though I have met her (as patron of another literary society of which I am a member) and heard her talk on how to produce a detective novel .... she is (was, sadly, now departed) a charming lady, well spoken and and knowledgeable.
I read all of Jane Austen's novels whilst I was a teenager, but P& P is the only one I have re-read, mainly due to time and other interests, than a lack of interest.
I was made to read Dickens and Shakespeare at school, but have never since revisted them. I love Gerogette Heyer (though lack the time to re-read my favorites, but do so from time to time) and also much appreciate the Cadfael novels of Ellis Peters, and Poirot and Miss Marple, but hate Tommy and Tuppence also created by our dear Agatha.
I did watch the BBC dramatisation of Death comes to Pemberley, but found it rather dark and incomplete.
Now I know why. The BBC serialisation did not take the novel as it exists and place it either in context or completeness. This novel took my breath away, and I completed it in two days, or less. This from someone who struggles to find time to read, and who reads (now) mainly free kindle fiction. This I bought after seeing the BBC serialisation, as I understood it not at all.
It is detailed - that I agree, but spellbinding. Along with Heyer, also known for her attention to detail, this is sometimes heavy in procedure, but it was necessary to tell us what and why .... Dickens could also be very detailed, but he was heavy with it, whereas in both Heyer and James, the detail adds to the picture ....
Now I know that the BBC serialisation with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the 90's was highly regarded, (except for the lake swim!), simply because it stuck so well to the original, in both story line and dialogue. The BBC dramatisation of Death Comes to Pemberley did neither.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Yes, it's detailed, but Baroness James was after all a civil servant in the Home Office and has written what I suspect would be called police prodeedurals for many years where detail is all important, but here she manages to get the relationship, the manners, the feelings, and the period all right. It does, as she says in her note, bring P&P up to date, as here we have a mature couple, with a family, learning to live together in love and understanding. Gorgeous. Of course they are not the Darcy and Elizabeth we remember from Jane Austen, they have changed, they have matured, learnt to live with each other, and grown up.
I very much enjoyed how Baroness James, after building up the tension in the court case, followed it through with a denouement and a resolution of the Darcy /Wickham conflict, but also moved on the love story of Georgiana, and of Elizabeth and Darcy themselves.
And for those who obviously have not read carefully enough - Elizabeth calls him Fitzwilliam, whilst he has various terms for endearment, for my love ... to dearest. What more can you want?
I might add that I paid for this book (very rare for me) and do not regret it all. It was a delightful interlude, an emotional roller coaster ... and though I knew the result from watching the TV dramatisation, nothing could stop my need to read to find out just how it really happened!
I must admit though, I did wonder, having read so many negative comments about this book, whether I was reading the same book. No, I decided, I just come from both a different perspective, and probably a different generation.
So yes, I loved it, but it is not your typical regency historical, nor a true "follow on" to P&P, but, as Baroness James rightly says in her introduction to why she wrote it, her own continuation of P&P, in her own inimitable style.