I talk to so many students about their favourite books and I reckon it’s pretty cool that ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is usually right up there on the list. Personally, I love Jane Austen’s classic – so much so that I probably re-read it once a year just for fun.
Well, if you’re into P & P and you’re looking for something to read, the library has a couple of spin off novels that might interest you.
‘Death Comes to Pemberley’, by P. D. James was released last year to great acclaim. It’s set a few years after the original P & P finished, and takes place predominantly in the great halls of Pemberley. Darcy and Elizabeth, now settled with children, live a content life; Jane and Bingley and their children live close by, Mr Bennet is a frequent visitor (Mrs Bennet is NOT), Lady Catherine de Bourgh has long since kicked the bucket and Lizzy doesn’t have to deal with an embarrassing mother or younger sister. But on the eve of the Darcy’s annual ball, an uninvited Lydia arrives at Pemberley in hysterics – she claims that Wickham has been murdered. Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are immediately on the case, but all is not as it seems, and the further the case progresses, the more secrets are revealed.
‘The Independence of Mary Bennet’, by Colleen McCullough, follows a completely different storyline. Set twenty years after the original P & P, this novel follows the story of poor old Mary Bennet. All of her sisters are married and settled and she –always labelled the plain and boring sister – seems to be resigned to a spinster’s life. However, Mary has blossomed. She has matured, bloomed in looks and independence, and with the death of her parents, is at leisure to do what she likes. With plans to write a rather inflammatory political novel, she begins travelling the countryside as part of her research – only to get caught up in a dangerous adventure of her own.
Both of these novels are completely different in style as well as plot. Both strongly reference the original story, yet it’s P. D. James’ novel that retains more of the Austen style of language. McCullough’s novel uses slightly more modern language and tends to be (like her other novels) a sweeping drama of romance and intrigue. P.D James is more famous for writing ‘whodunnits’ and ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ is more of a classic murder mystery.
I liked both novels because they were completely different, but as an Austen fanatic, I preferred ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ because I thought it was truer to the original characters and plot. ‘The Independence of Mary Bennet’ really changed some of the characters and made them far more dramatic which grated with me a little. Both novels were easy to read and great for a rainy day like today!