It’s been only a few years since I finally picked up Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and then only because I felt somewhat guilted into doing so. I had recently read several novels in a row where Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy had repeatedly been referenced, and I was feeling a little “uneducated” because I had no idea who these two characters were or why they were so beloved. So I picked up an old, dusty copy of Pride and Prejudice, dusted off the jacket, and began reading. I immediately fell in love. Who knew that something written so long ago would resonate so deeply within me? Who knew that I would count it as among my Top 10 Favorite Books of All Time?
Since reading the original work by Austen, I’ve so fallen in love with the characters that I never miss a chance to read another author’s “sequel.” I want to know what Darcy and Elizabeth have been up to. How have their lives changed since the closing pages of Pride and Prejudice? With this in mind, I was ecstatic to see a new book, Death Comes to Pemberley, that would hopefully address some of my questions.
It’s been six years since the weddings of Elizabeth to Darcy and Miss (Jane) Bennet to Bingley. Both families are settled in homes with close proximity to the other, and the sisters and best friends freely visit each other as often as their responsibilities will allow. Even their households become somewhat intertwined with the impending marriage of a Pemberley parlour maid to the butler in the Bingley’s household. Everything is right in the worlds of the Darcys and the Bingleys until the ominous events on the evening of the eve of Lady Anne’s Ball when the sister to the two women, Lydia Wickham, arrives at Pemberley with no small amount of commotion. Her husband, Mr. Wickham, and his friend have disappeared into the woodlands surrounding Pemberley and shots have been fired, leading the coachman and Lydia to surmise that disaster has struck.
Immediately a search party of Darcy and his male guests ensues, the result of which is finding the nefarious Mr. Wickham cradling the dead body of his best friend and confidant, Captain Denny. “He’s dead! Oh God, Denny’s dead! He was my friend, my only friend, and I’ve killed him! I’ve killed him! It’s my fault,” cries an obviously distraught and inebriated Wickham.
Has Wickham declared his guilt in the death of his friend, or was this the ramblings of a man who feels his actions have simply contributed to the untimely death of his friend? An Inquest would be assembled to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to presume the guilt of Wickham in his friend’s death.
Death Comes to Pemberley sees the return of Austen’s most beloved characters: The Darcys, The Bingleys and the Wickhams of course; but also the return of the forbidding Lady Catherine and the ridiculous Mr. Collins. The long-suffering Mr. Bennet is still patiently enduring the dramatic and embarrassing antics of his wife, and the sweet Georgiana – the younger sister to Mr. Darcy – has grown and matured into a graceful young woman with several marriage prospects.
While Jane Austen might have a few words to say about such scandal coming to her beloved Pemberley, there can be no doubt that fans of Austen’s original story will find much to recommend itself in P.D. James’ sequel to Pride and Prejudice.
Death Comes to Pemberley is available through the Rochester Public Library. However, as a kick-off to our Free Book Giveaway, a gently used copy of this book will be awarded to one lucky blog-reader just for reading this review and entering our contest.
To enter, simply complete the form below and your name will be entered into a drawing to receive a free, hardcover, gently used copy of Death Comes to Pemberley. Please note that this contest is open only to Rochester, MN-area residents only, and you must be available to pick up your free copy at the Friends of the Library Bookstore within 10 business days of notification, and during normal bookstore hours. No copies will be mailed. This contest is open until Midnight on Friday, May 11th, and the winner will be announced on this blog on Monday, May 14th