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Carissa Green Reads

I read widely from many genres. Perhaps this blog will feature fewer ratings and reviews, but I certainly intend to write about my reading life - it's the subject I most find myself wanting to talk about.

Currently reading

Chekhov Four Plays
Anton Chekhov, David Magarshack
Beyond the University Why Liberal Education Matters
Michael S Roth
First Love, Last Rites
Ian McEwan
The Gay Science: with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs
Walter Kaufmann, Friedrich Nietzsche
A Kierkegaard Anthology
Robert W. Bretall

Reimaginings: Death Comes to Pemberley

Death Comes to Pemberley - P.D. James

I don't really have a problem with literary reimaginings in which authors take on classic characters and plots, giving them a new guise. When it's done well, the stories are quite satisfying. As long as these "fan fictions" don't get adopted as canon, I'll go along. I even rather enjoy some of them.


I reserve the right to disagree with some of the choices these authors make, or dislike them outright (e.g. what happened to poor Charlotte in "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies"). Sometimes, they are just completely unsuccessful - like the main character of "Austenland" who got most of her knowledge of "Pride and Prejudice" from a particular BBC miniseries, rather than Austen's text itself. UGH.


Mostly, I enjoyed P.D. James' "Death Comes to Pemberley." I found its plot engaging and characters generally consistent with their source material. But what I can't forgive are outright errors from Austen's original. For someone who professed to be a life-long Austen fan (and employed a secretary who could have fact-checked), there were some particularly egregious ones in her novel.


1. "It still surprised her that between Darcy's first insulting proposal and his second successful and penitent request for her love, they had only been together in private for less than half an hour: the time when she and the Gardiners were visiting Pemberley and he unexpectedly return, and they walked together in the gardens, and the following day when he rode over to the Lambton inn where she was staying to discover her in tears , holding Jane's letter with news of Lydia's elopement." (47) Nope, it's not the next day. Elizabeth and the Gardiners spend several days at Pemberley and Lambton, so the walk int he garden and the letters from Jane do not happen on consecutive days. 


2. "She recollected that evening when Darcy, with the Bingleys, had first made an appearance in the Meryton Assembly Rooms when Charlotte had somehow suspected that he might be interested in her friend and had warned Elizabeth, in her preference for Wickham, not to slight a man of Darcy's much greater importance." (153) You don't even have to remember your Austen very well - the miniseries would serve just fine here - to know that Charlotte says this at the NETHERFIELD ball, not the Meryton ball. 


3. "Mr. and Mrs. Knightley of Donwell Abbey are the most important couple in Highbury" (280) While it's true that by the end of "Emma," a Mr. and Mrs. Knightley are to be installed at Donwell Abbey, it's Mr. and Mrs. JOHN Knightley (Knightley's brother and Emma's sister). Knightley agrees to live at Hartfield, for the sake of Mr. Woodhouse's nerves. And from the context of James' narrative, she's clearly talking of Emma, who was the particular friend of Harriet Martin, not Isabella. 


While these did not ruin the book for me, they did take me, momentarily, out of the narrative. I forgive, but I expected better from the late, great, beloved P.D. James.