Pride and Prejudice

Blathering about Books

It’s Saturday.  We’re planning an excursion to the library for story time shortly.  Daniel returned to day care on Thursday and happily, no more vomiting has occurred.  Maybe we’re finally out of the woods (knocks on wood, crosses fingers and toes).  Our week was still crazy and we found ourselves begging the universe to let us make it to Friday.  I think that extreme busyness will be the norm for the next few weeks unfortunately, but I’m resigned to it.  I think I need to find a place to do yoga or something that will help me relax.

There has been a lot of news about my favorite books from childhood recently, so indulge me:

Pride and Prejudice

Last week was the 200th anniversary of the publication of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. When asked about my favorite book, P&P is my answer. I first read it when I was 13, plucking the book from my grandfather’s shelf of classics.  As a dutiful English major, I think I own 3 versions of it not including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (how genius was that?).  I haven’t read it in several years and I’m almost afraid to do so, wondering if my perception of the book will have changed.  What if I find Lizzie insufferable now?  What if I find Mrs. Bennet to be sympathetic (doubtful)?  Do you find yourself avoiding revisiting certain old favorites in order to preserve the feeling, the impression?  A few links:

Little House on the Prairie

This series has been on my mind recently, possibly because JJiraffe has posted about reading it to her twins. The series was another childhood favorite of mine, and I have all the books, including the ones after the series as well as a biography.  I remember the kick in the stomach I felt when I read articles positing that the books’ quality was due more to Laura’s daughter’s involvement than Laura’s ability as a writer.  That in a way, they had been ghostwritten by Rose.  Thankfully, that perception seems to be shifting as further research has revealed that Laura was more than capable of writing the series and that while Rose was definitely involved, it was as an editor whose recommendations were not always taken by her stubborn mother.

Anne of Green Gables

I am a huge Anne of Green Gables fan.  Anne seemed like a kindred spirit from the moment I picked up the book.  Like Anne, I have red hair and I have always been incredibly flattered when people told me I reminded them of Anne in terms of personality.  For my friends’ little girls’ 1st birthdays, I’ve given copies of Anne of Green Gables to add to their libraries.  I reread the first book a few years ago and the storyline of her adoption was especially poignant to me reading it as an adult for whom family building was difficult.  As a child, I understood the adoption plot line and thought it was silly that the Avonlea residents had such bizarre stereotypes about orphans.  As an infertile adult, it hit me on a visceral level. The book is much sadder for me as an adult.

The big news this week was that some asshole decided to reprint the books with the cover picture of Anne as a blonde.  Um…what?  Anne’s red hair isn’t a feature that can be ignored.  It’s kind of a major plot point of the series.  It turns out that the edition was self-published on Amazon and after the outcry, it has been shelved.   I can only assume the publishers were idiots who had never read the books.  Another case of ginger discrimination thwarted.

And finally, ending on a funny note: Literary Types Find Love in the New York Times Review of Books.

 

 

Book Review: Death Comes to Pemberley

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen fans want her novels to continue, hence the cottage industry of sequels, prequels and re-tellings (Pride & Prejudice & Zombies for example) that has developed in recent years.

Death Comes to Pemberley, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, is the latest entry.  Written by acclaimed mystery author P.D. James, the novel picks up a few years after Pride and Prejudice ended.  We join the happily married Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, parents to two small boys, as they prepare for an annual ball hosted at Pemberley.  They have been joined by Mr. Darcy’s sister, the Bingleys, a young attorney and Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy’s cousin.  As the wind picks up and a storm moves in on the eve of the ball, so does trouble in the form of Elizabeth’s sister, Lydia Wickham.   Even more unexpected than her arrival is her news:  Wickham has been murdered, and Pemberley’s residents become embroiled in a mystery.

What I Liked

James did an amazing job of recreating Austen’s world (customs, language and the legal system) as well as recreating the characters; it also helped the novel’s believability as a sequel that of the Pride and Prejudice characters present in the novel, only Darcy and Elizabeth were present throughout.  In brief scenes, James managed to convey the flavor of Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet, Wickham and Lydia without exposing a faithful P&P reader to a misstep.  She also wisely introduced new characters who had larger roles, so that the focus was carried evenly by the Darcys and the new characters.  I also liked that she delved into Darcy’s family tree and fleshed out some of the pressures and history that shaped him into the Darcy we know (and adore!).  James also slyly included clever references to characters in Emma and Persuasion that both worked with the plot and added to the novel’s credibility.

What I Didn’t Like

I haven’t read any of James’ mysteries, so I don’t know if this style is typical of her, but a lot of the novel took place in the characters’ thoughts.   Yes, there was dialogue, but there was a lot of exposition that seemed excessive.  I also thought that she spent too much time explaining plot points from Pride and Prejudice that the reader needed to know in order to understand the plot.  I understand that she was trying to make her novel accessible to a reader who hadn’t read Pride and Prejudice or hadn’t read it in a long time, but honestly, if you aren’t a major P&P fan, are you going to read a book that is a sequel to a book  you haven’t read?  The explanations, though well tied into the story (typically in the character’s thoughts), took up too many pages and couldn’t quite hide that the central mystery was a little thin.  The actual mystery and characters’ motivations seemed a bit sensational for Austen’s novels; they seemed a bit closer to Dickens’ novels.

Verdict

Overall, Death Comes to Pemberley was a fun read.  I’ve read other sequels to P&P that were far less competently executed.  While I can quibble with the details, overall, James got it right (and she’s almost 92 years old!!).  She obviously loves Austen and Pride and Prejudice, and this sequel is one that any Austen-phile can safely pick up and enjoy.