Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, is one of the most popular novels in English literature.
And in defense of Ms. Austen’s good name, I would like to use my Andy Rooney voice and ask the question: Have you noticed the “pulp fictionalization” of great works of literature lately, particularly Pride and Prejudice?
See for yourself. Go to any online book seller and search with key words like Jane Austen, vampires, and mysteries, then poof! Up pops an ant trail of books written by multitudinous scribblers. Some seem readable. Others have titles such as Vampire Darcy’s Desire. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to go there. Anne Rice has written all that needs to be said about 19th century vampires and their desires. Leave Mr. Darcy and his sensibilities out of it, please. Imagine what’s next, Nightmare on the Mississippi: Huck Becomes a Werewolf or Anna Karina Was Dracula’s Bride!
Does PD James’ Death Comes to Pemberley fall into the pulp fiction category? Hardly. An accomplished crime novelist, Ms. James has, at ninety-one, penned a sequel to Ms. Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Ms. James’ creation picks up on the day before the eve of the Autumnal Ball at Pemberley. Before taking Elizabeth and Darcy into the world of mystery and murder, Ms. James, in an author’s note, apologizes to their creator for “involving her beloved Elizabeth in the trauma of a murder investigation.” She goes on to write “had she wished to dwell on such odious subjects, she would have written this story herself, and done it better.”
Ms. James’ story is hers alone but written in a style praising the original prose. For example, she describes Elizabeth’s relief that she is not poor with “Elizabeth knew that she was not formed for the sad contrivances of poverty.” Pure Austen.
She dashes off an adventurous tale about the shameless George Wickham and his wife Lydia and how “polite society” should respond to their selfish, unethical actions. When you think this master of mystery writing has revealed all, Ms. James uncovers more surprises, just as Ms. Austen would have done if she had written a mystery about Pemberley and its residents. Well done, Ms. James.