Posted by: Lizzie Ross | February 18, 2012

My first thumbs down

Warning — a few Pride and Prejudice references are coming at you.

For nearly 2 years, this has been an all-positive blog — me, posting about books I’ve loved, giving you, my readers, what I hope are useful tips about a broad range of books. Plus what I also hope is an enjoyable peek into the mind of an avid reader.

I’m almost like Will Rogers, in that I’ve almost never met a book I didn’t like. That makes writing good things about good books easy, since most books are good to me. But yesterday I finished something that made me just a wee bit angry about the time I’d wasted on it. It was bad, yet I kept reading it, partly in hopes that I’d be proven wrong about its qualities, partly to see if my guesses about the plot were proven correct. In the end, the predictable plot and the mediocre writing meant I was right on both counts.

Still with me?

The perp is PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley, a piece of fluff fan fiction that brings murder to Elizabeth Bennet Darcy’s front door. It’s just a few years after her happy marriage, there are 2 boys in the nursery, and Lizzy is planning her annual ball. All looks wonderful and comfortable, until her sister, Lydia Wickham, unexpectedly arrives the night before the ball, screaming about how her husband has just been murdered.

I must confess that this isn’t the first sequel to Pride and Prejudice that I’ve tried. There was one told from Darcy’s viewpoint, but I couldn’t get past page 5 and had to give it away — it was simply a poor excuse for soft porn. There was also the one about the modern girl who walks through her closet into, not Narnia, but the Bennet’s house just when Mr. Bingley has made his first appearance in the neighborhood. This came to me as a book-on-tape, something for a cross-country drive, but I had to keep hitting the fast-forward button. Dreadful.

And now this. It should teach me to stay away from such attempts. James is good at imitating Austen’s style, although there were many moments when sentences seemed more like plagiarism than really good ersatz 19th century English. But, ok, I could live with that. What I couldn’t live with were repeated plot devices, such as the servant who comes so quickly when summoned that he could have been just outside the door — 3 different servants on 3 different occasions — and the not very subtle clues to the resolution. I spotted the murder weapon as soon as it appeared, which spoiled any suspense about who the real murderer was. I knew which character was the baby’s real mother, so no exciting reveal there when that finally came out.

So, my final word: be wary of any sequel to Elizabeth Bennet’s story. It will never be as satisfying as P&P, so you’re much better off rereading the original.

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Responses

  1. I just saw this at Book People in Austin. Didn’t even flip through it based on your review.

  2. I didn’t realize I had that much power. And thanks for all your “likes”!


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