This was my first P. D. James novel, but far from my first Austen adaptation. I do not read a lot of modern mysteries, but I got this book for the Kindle when it was published last year. I even read the first couple of paragraphs back in December, but I have largely read from real books and my large TBR queue since then. The Austen in August challenge made me remember this book so I’m finally reading it.
I have read a number of adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, both published and in fanfiction form. They are not usually amazing to rival Austen’s works, but they can be amusing, fun and a light read. This kind of fiction is essentially indulgent. Indulgent for the author to express their love for the work and indulgent for the audience who want more from their beloved characters.
It is not easy to make a story believable, canon or to engage a reader with their beloved characters. I am generally forgiving about this because no one can be Austen, but you can still write a decent reinterpretation. This work didn’t quite work out for me in that aspect.
As this is my first novel of James, I am not sure what her usual style is. I found the paragraphs and the sentences to be sometimes too long. It was also very expository at times. There was a little too much plot and not enough focus on the characters, and for many of us, we just want to read more about Austen’s characters and their relationships.
There wasn’t enough of Elizabeth and while Darcy was there, I didn’t really feel we got to know him that well until the end. Also, James changed Colonel Fitzwilliam to being less friendly and more tetchier. She gave reasons for this, but the Fitzwilliam in her book does not resemble the one in the original novel at all. I felt this change was just a plot device.
The mystery wasn’t hard to solve, but a lot of the book was focussd on the nineteenth century law trial which was even more exposition. There is definitely good historical details, but it doesn’t make the novel for me.
The ending is melodramatic. It’s a bit over the top and I thought she overplayed a little too much in Jane’s sandbox there. It was just too sensational and also, mostly for plot and not really much for the characters. Darcy and Elizabeth were introspective at points, but I kinda felt it served for more exposition and as a way for James to posit her views about the characters. Sometimes I felt the book was taking itself a bit too seriously.
All in all, an average read and reinterpretation of Austen. While I never had an inflation to read PD James before, I will also continue this feeling after this book. It wasn’t for me.
Read August 14-15th 2012.