Review: Death Comes to Pemberley

On paper, Death Come to Pemberley by P.D. James sounds like a can’t miss book.  One of the masters of modern British literature takes on a masterpiece from the past, that being Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.  The execution well… To honor James’ effort in adopting another persona to tell this story, I will write my review as a publishing house editor who plucked this from the slush pile and was forced to read and provide feedback to author who lacks the powerful, normally reliable name of P.D. James. ***

Dear Author,

Thank you for considering us, however we will pass on Death Comes to Pemberley.  Although we normally can’t be bothered with detailed rejections, this was so egregious, we will make an effort to prevent future catastrophe.

From the first pages, it is apparent that while you appropriated the characters from Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, you have changed core aspects of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s personas in a way that subverts the essence of Ms. Austin’s book and why countless readers have made Elizabeth an enduring character.

Although you have made an effort to stay true to Ms. Austin’s writing style, the repeated use of the phrase “It was generally accepted that…” is insufficient.  Yes, Ms. Austin was prone to rambling sidebars, but she also knew how to use witty dialogue to convey information.  In your effort, on the few occasions dialogue appeared, it fell flat.

Perhaps, you should have spent more time studying dialogue than doing the historical research that is frequently “shoehorned” into random places in the text.  The overall effect is to create an inauthentic voice that sounds like someone trying too hard to be someone they are not.  Indeed, this comes across as a school assignment to write what happens five years after the events of Pride and Prejudice.

On another note, there were considerable plot issues in this work.  What little plot there was disappeared under the weight of back story.  Industry insiders understand that every character needs a back story. Your job as an author is to create one.  However, you do not need to share all the intimate details of every character’s back story, nor should you add characters to your book simply to show off your historical research.  Scene and characters should advance the story relative to the primary plot.  Back story creates the dreaded “information dump” that serves the sole purpose of adding pages to an otherwise thin story.   I fear that if we eliminate all the unnecessary moments in this book, we will be left with a short story of roughly 8,000 words and our publishing house only accepts full length titles.

Before attempting your next manuscript, you may wish to read some books on craft.  As for Death Comes to Pemberley, we are unable to accept.  I strongly suggest you keep this one under the mattress or in a box on the closet shelf.

Sincerely,

Publishing house that would have never pulled this manuscript for publication, even if it had the name of a famous author attached.

*** – Yup – I’m that mean today.  I read this book so you don’t have to, although in truth, I suffered through it as an audio book.   I have enjoyed P.D. James in the past and have read Jane Austin multiple times.  After reading this book, I’m so disappointed.  Jane Austin and Seth Grahame-Smith’ Pride and Prejudice and Zombies shows you can make bold changes to well-loved classic characters and stay true to the original.

As an author with one book to my pen name, I’m stunned that this book ever arrived on shelves.  There are so many terrific lesser known authors out there struggling for shelf space who are producing higher quality story telling.  If any of us had sent in Death Comes to Pemberley as a manuscript, it would have never seen the light of day.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to find another book. One that will remind me why I love reading.  Any suggestions?

No Garden Fail this year

I wrote last fall about my epic garden fail and promised myself and the world I would not plant tomatoes in 2013.  We are nearly a month past the last frost date in Virginia and I can claim victory.  I have not planted a single tomato. Nor have I planted cucumbers, broccoli or peppers. We have one volunteer tomato plant and I did plant some parsley – it was a gift from the kids – but otherwise I’ve remained edible free in my planting efforts this year.

I commend myself on this achievement. I would not have been able to reach this milestone without the assistance of my husband.  He is being transferred to Minneapolis, Minnesota.  We may not be here long enough to enjoy a harvest and I need to keep most of my containers empty so they will be easier to move.  I have a good excuse to forgo the annual bursting of a dream I call backyard gardening.

Here’s the thing.  I’m already thinking how a shortened growing season will work.  Perhaps I will be able to grow cilantro once again.  Perhaps the squirrels will not dig up and destroy everything I plant. Perhaps my tomatoes and peppers will not take a hiatus because of the high heat. Perhaps I’ll try broccoli.  Maybe I’ll get a green house.  The possibilities are endless. There is always a chance the garden will work.  I’m already dreaming of next year.