THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS! if you haven’t read the book or watched the first episode, look away now!
Ok so now that warning is out of the way I can share my thoughts. Firstly the book, I read this recently without actually realising that the BBC was making a dramatisation of it. I had read terrible reviews of the book, but this always makes me want to give something a read especially when it’s a Jane Austen fanfic. PD James is also a very well-respected writer so I thought I would give it a go.
Death comes to Pemberley is basically a sequel to Pride and Prejudice with a murder mystery thrown in. Pride and Prejudice is a book I know very well, so much so that I actually listen to the audio book every night when I go to sleep. I have seen every TV production and film of it and I just really really love it. I didn’t however love Death Comes to Pemberley.
What I did like about the book was the actual parts that follow on from Jane Austen’s novel, all the bits involving Elizabeth, Mr Darcy, Jane and Bingly etc, are really well written and feels like a natural follow on from the book. Maybe the author should have stuck to just writing another sequel and left the whole murder aspect out.
The main problem for me was that I just didn’t care, I thought James was lazy in her choice of victim, who cares about Denny? Such a minor character in the original book that we have no interest or engagement with him. Therefor when he is killed do we care? Not really. A good crime writer will develop the character of the victim, even if they are dead on the first page. If we don’t care to start with after a few chapters we will. But in this book PD James doesn’t bother, we are no more engaged with the victim that we are for the food prepared for the Pemberley ball.
Wickham is such an unlikeable character that I didn’t really care if he was hanged or not, I felt very little sympathy for him, and when at the end I found out what really happened I still really didn’t care.
Sadly I can’t get those hours of my life back, but I can lose a few more watching the BBC dramatisation. After all it’s the BBC they always do a good job with a Jane Austen right? Apparently wrong. So distracted was I by all the wardrobe inaccuracies that I hardly noticed the terrible story line. Thank you BBC for making me dislike Death Comes to Pemberley on a whole new level.
I’m no expert, but I know enough about the regency era to have picked up on these few points…
1. As a married women Elizabeth should be wearing a cap indoors.
2. She should also be wearing a bonnet outside.
3. She is wearing nothing under her dress!!! Even through pregnancy she would have been wearing a corset or stays, she also should have a chemise or petticoat under her dress.
4. She looks less well presented than the servants. Elizabeth looks like a cheaply dressed scullery maid, she may be outdoorsy but she is still the mistress of a great house and her husband has 10 thousand a year – no excuse for her scruffy appearance.
5. Her hair – don’t get me started on the hair!
And lastly is it just me or did Mr Alveston just suddenly appear with no introduction to the character? The BBC shouldn’t presume we all read the book and know what going on. In fact after reading the reviews on Goodreads a lot of people started and didn’t finish it. A good call on their part. Also why no Jane in this one? I do however love the casting of Lidia and Mrs Bennet, these were spot on, and the locations are amazing.
Fay once told me that I shouldn’t write reviews as I always look for the best in everything and so tend to be nice even when I shouldn’t. But here you go, a very honest review! I’d love to know what everyone else thought of the book and the TV production so far. Comments please!
SarahJanuary 12, 2014 at 1:59 am
Finally someone I agree with! Nearly every blog I’ve come across has heralded its wonders, needless to say I don’t feel the same. When watching it my boyfriend said much the same as you about Elizabeth’s attire, “a scullery maid” I couldn’t agree more. Also what ever happened to Darcy having a bit of reserve, James made him far too happy in my opinion.
MeiJanuary 22, 2014 at 2:33 pm
Hello, Yes, I agree with you! Elizabeth was so wrong! Her appearance was so wrong indeed!
She looked cheap, and her hair! the dress, etc… everything was wrong.
I also did not like Lydia, for her make up was too modern.
Above all, where was the cheerful spirits? Austen’s novel must have some livelyness.
I am a big fan of Mathew Goode, but, he did not act Wickham’s slyness, but somehow happy engaging manners.
I generally love period dramas, but, Death comes to Pemberly, I never want to see it!
Thank you for vent me out this, I have been wanting to say this soon after the TV show. Now, I have shared it with you!
vevekayApril 1, 2014 at 12:18 pm
Thanks for this post – I was looking for a review about the book and its BBC adaptation as I had only read the first 66 pages and just couldn’t continue. I’m a huge fan of Austen and got the book as a gift, (and I’ve read many P&P adaptations) but this one just didn’t do it for me. As for the BBC series, well, honestly, just watching the trailer put me off it right away! The appearance of Lizzy was so disappointing. She just looked like she had been through an ordeal (or rather, dragged through a hedge) in so many scenes, incredible!
Kittie MillaOctober 27, 2014 at 6:52 am
Didn’t read the book but heard a lot about it. Just started watching the first episode of the BBC adaptation….and my reaction was like :”whaaaa????” Couldn’t figure out what was going on the whole entire time at all. Couldn’t agree with you on this more. Honestly, don’t even have the desire to watch, or read any of it. I was also not digging the costumes,especially Lizzie’s for that matter. She’s a rich woman, why does she keep wearing the same exact dress? And why is her appearance so messed up? And where is that famous beloved Lizzy we all know? The liveliness and the wit? Might as well given them all different names and left Jane Austen’s beloved characters out of this boring story. I was so confused that I decided to look up on Google as to how the story ends so that I wouldn’t have to waste my time.
Pea GreenNovember 28, 2014 at 11:58 am
I don’t need to write a thing, Kittie – you did it all for me ^_^ I was so cheesed off that I, too, went to Google to see how it ends. . . . can’t be bothered to sit through the rest. I had made a lovely cup of tea in a regency cup too 🙁
Denise EvansNovember 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm
I totally agree with you! I hated the book so I had no intention of watching the PBS adaptation until I got so bored last night I actually tuned in. OMG – the casting was way off, especially for Lizzy and Darcy. Anna Maxwell Martin may be a fine actress, but she’s wrong to play Lizzy. She also seems totally submissive to Darcy and lacks all of the wit and liveliness that we have come to love in the character. I agree with the costuming. Poorly researched. Matthew Rhys is another fine actor, but I blame the director for obviously directing him to be stern, proud and demanding to everyone, including Lizzy. I have always had a suspicion that P.D. James actually did not write the book, but a ghost writer was employed and her name attached to sell books. It was an abomination to Jane Austen’s name!
NicolaDecember 9, 2014 at 1:37 pm
I’ve just watched episode 2 and am enjoying it so far. Yes Liza seems very relaxed in her appearance but surely that is a reflection of the personality of the character she is playing. I felt we are being reminded that she married for love not money by the way she is dressed. From what I remember from the original Jane Austin works the family were quite humble and lived relatively simply compared with Darcy and those at Pemberley.
NicolaDecember 9, 2014 at 1:39 pm
Sorry I mean lizzie… Bloody iPad
kayzagDecember 9, 2014 at 11:42 pm
Hehe, yes it’s true that Lizzie married for love not money. Jane Austen didn’t write much about costumes and dresses in her novels. However, my fave adapatation of Pride and Prejudice is the one with Keira. True, her costumes were not fancy but note that she didn’t wear the same dress or color throughout the entire movie. And yet the costumes reflected her vivacious personality, and it was that very personality that made her so appealing in which case in this film, greatly lacked. She seemed very insipid looking. Jane Austen couldn’t stand insipid people! I’m sure that Lizzie’s character in this movie is more suitable to her sister Jane rather than Lizzie. Another thing about costumes, she doesn’t have to be fancy and richly adorned. She could however have simple yet exquisite few gowns because the means allow it. She has enough sense to appear humble yet extraordinary because of who she is, that’s what Jane Austen would’ve done if she ever wrote a sequel. There’s a good reason she didn’t. I like to imagine Lizzie only in Pride and Prejudice. That’s where I liked her best;)
Mala dartmanFebruary 28, 2015 at 11:54 pm
I so hate what was done to this wonderful love story
Elizabeth was so badly cast
Lizzy was pretty this actress was better cast a a servant Scullery maid
She had a harsh Appearance
And Mr. Darcy’s character was badly cast also
But most of all they Ruined a 210 love story
LhauraOctober 7, 2016 at 4:39 am
The book? i feel like it comes to a certain lie that Mr. Darcy would stop feeling the love for Elizabeth… I like the rest of the drama, keeps Austen history…… But the Serie– TERRIBLE!