I am reading — and loving — Death Comes to Pemberley, the new book by famed mystery novelist P.D. James. Jane Austen is one of the few writers whose work inspired me to read every one of her novels (Milan Kundera, who couldn’t be more different, is another). This sequel to the most famous of Austen’s works, Pride and Prejudice, is surprisingly well drafted and fun (I am not generally a fan of Jane Austen sequels). Penned to mimic the style of Austen herself, the plot of the new book begins six years after the events of the original. It draws Elizabeth, Darcy, Jane, and the rest of the Pride and Prejudice crew into an unexpected murder mystery.
The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have published more erudite reviews that I will attempt here (especially since I am only about a quarter of the way through the book). But I have to admit that I am enjoying all of the references and in-jokes that Austen fans will notice in the text. One wink, especially, evoked a wide smile as I sat alone in our living room reading the book. The narrator notes that Elizabeth and Darcy had, in fact “only been together in private for less than half an hour” between his first proposal, which was rejected, and his second successful attempt. Then, James writes, in the voice of a thoughtful Elizabeth:
“If this were fiction, could even the most brilliant novelist contrive to make credible so short a period in which pride had been subdued and prejudice overcome?”
Yes she could, P.D. James, yes she could!