Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Death Comes To Pemberley: BBC 2013 series (Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge: December)

on December 31, 2013

pride-prejudice-bicentenary-challenge-2013-x-200So, it’s the last day of 2013 and time for my final review as part of the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge. As you’ll see from my original plan, I had various different ideas about what I’d review for this challenge over the year, some of which have come to fruition and some have not, largely owing to the difficulty of getting hold of some of the books (they were unavailable at the library and some belt-tightening in the family finances prevented me from buying them). However, other opportunities have presented themselves at just the right time, and this final review is of one of those.

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James was published in 2011, an imagined sequel to Pride and Prejudice. If all had gone according to plan, I’d have read it in January of this year with my reading group, but I knew early on that I wouldn’t be able to make the date chosen for the meeting and chose to catch up on some other reading rather than read the book I was not going to be discussing. So it was that I approached this BBC adaptation fresh to the plot as well as the casting and production, meaning that there will be no reflections on how the series stands up against the book. By all means get in touch and let me know what you thought, if you’re in a position to do a comparison.

Several years have passed since Lizzy married Darcy and they are now the parents of a small son and live a happy family life at Pemberley. Preparations are underway for a large party and a ball (it’s going to be so big they don’t have room for all their guests to sleep at Pemberley) and the Darcys’ main concern is over the two suitors for the hand of Georgiana – one of whom she likes a lot more than the other. I thought this part was acted really well and the humour of the resentment between the two gentlemen was brought out to great effect.

Suddenly, however, things change. Lydia Wickham – who was travelling with her husband to Pemberley uninvited as a “surprise” for them all – arrives in hysterics because Wickham is missing and she heard shots in the woods. On investigation it turns out Captain Denny is dead and it seems highly likely that Wickham is the murderer.

As well as following the development of the case, the story focuses on its impact on the household at Pemberley and in particular Darcy’s relationships with his wife and sister. I felt that the existing characters – by which I mean those whom we know from Pride and Prejudice – were developed in a believable way, especially Wickham as the incorrigible rogue motivated alternately by the pursuit of his own pleasure or the desperate attempts to cover over his mistakes, whose past was now coming back to bite him as nobody believes in his innocence.

We were given more of an insight into his relationship with Lydia and in particular her decision to turn a blind eye when it came to his extra-marital dalliances.

The new characters introduced by PD James fitted well into the setting and there was nothing much which struck me as confusing or at odds with Austen’s world. However at one point during the trial I did question the behaviour of the judge in his refusal to allow Wickham’s lawyer to raise objections – I couldn’t work out whether he was biased in favour of the prosecution, or if those kinds of interruptions just weren’t permitted in Austen’s day. But it was puzzling, whatever the reason!

The plot strands were enjoyably woven together as the story progressed and it all finished in a most satisfactory manner with a last-minute revelation and the inevitable race against the clock to resolve matters.

All in all I really enjoyed this three-part production (which surprised me, as several people I know hadn’t liked the book). My main disappointments were that Colonel Fitzwilliam was dropped rather suddenly from the story and did not appear in the final summary of “what happened next” to everyone, and that Lady Catherine de Bourgh only featured very briefly. Everyone in my family thought that we’d have liked to see a lot more of her, played as she was by the excellent Penelope Keith in a very effective yet understated way with not too much of the Lady Bracknell about her (anyone who’s planning any adaptations of P&P in the future would do well to bear her in mind for the part!).

So that’s my year of reviews finished. I’ve really enjoyed it and read a few things I wouldn’t have otherwise so it’s been fun and enlightening.

I wish you a Happy New Year with minutes to spare (in the UK at any rate!) – see you all next year!

Thankful for


Time with family

The chance to see some friends today after years of being unable to meet up

Being able to make plans for the future

All my gratitudes from 2013. What a year it’s been.


2 responses to “Death Comes To Pemberley: BBC 2013 series (Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge: December)

  1. Ann says:

    Do read the book Death Comes to Pemberley from the library if you can as I think P D James written ending is much more satisfying than the ending of the television series.
    However apart from the ending I did find the television series worth watching and liked the acting of Rebecca Front as Mrs Bennet and James Fleet as Mr Bennet in particular.

    • northmum says:

      Thanks for your comment and recommendation, Ann – that’s interesting to know that PD James’ ending is not exactly the same. I’ll try & get hold of a copy at some point. I too thought that James Fleet and Rebecca Front were very well cast, although it makes me feel old to see James Fleet playing a grandad when I still think of him as being much younger from previous parts he’s played!”

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