A Charming Whodunit: Death Comes to Pemberley

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A Mystery Story for 12th Grade Students Who Enjoyed Pride and Prejudice

This “sequel” to Pride and Prejudice is a fun whodunit! I enjoyed it (my thoughts below) and think students who loved Pride and Prejudice would love to spend more time back at Pemberley, checking in on Lizzie and Darcy.

Check out this link to PD James’ website here. 

In Death Comes to Pemberley, Lizzie and Darcy have been happily married for six years and are living at their beloved Pemberley. Life is routine, until Lydia shows up unexpectedly, screaming that her husband, the untrustworthy Wickham, has been murdered.

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Classic British Literature Story With a New Mystery to Solve

Like I said above, I did enjoy reading this book, but I think my sights were set too high. I love Jane Austen, I love Lizzie and Darcy and Jane and Bingley, and I love Pemberley. All of these took a back seat to a murder mystery in this book. I knew that going in. The title tells us that is what is within the pages of this book. Still, I was disappointed.

My disappointment is by all means more my fault than the author’s. P.D. James writes in the style of the times. She is true to the characters of the original story. Wickham is still a jerk, Lydia is still a loudmouth, Mr. Bennett is still a calming presence among chaos. Darcy and Lizzie are still in love and Jane and Bingley are as sweet as can be.

New characters are introduced, and James did a lovely job of making it seem like they should have been there all along. Honestly, the book is authentic and Austen may have enjoyed it herself. I would have loved it more if I did not love Pride and Prejudice the way that I do. 

I wanted more of the sexual tension between Lizzie and Darcy, which, of course, after six years of marriage will have waned or disappeared all together. My unconscious hope was for them to still be as special to me six years after their wedding, but they weren’t. They were, well…normal.

“We are neither of us the people we were then. Let us look on the past only as it gives us pleasure, and to the future with confidence and hope.” (James)

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Companion Novel For Students of British Literature

There are so many fun ways to use this in the classroom, either as an independent choice or as a whole class read. I am planning on doing a murder mystery party in class at the end of the year, and the script could certainly be tailored to a Pride and Prejudice theme! 

Students can study how well PD James wrote in Austen’s style and whether her characters ring true to the original. They should study the details – does this new Pemberley feel like our beloved place? What is the tone and the mood? Why is Lydia still so annoying?!

However, this is not going to pique everyone’s interest, obviously. Our students who love this kind of literature are more and more rare each year, but sometimes you get that unicorn of a class who just loves it. I have had exactly ONE of those in my career, and it was magical. 

Also, did I mention there is a miniseries? You can find more info on that here.

And watch the preview for episode one below:

Calling All Austen Lovers

Who this book is for: I think our students who love Austen, and there are many, will love spending more time with these beloved characters, just be sure to forewarn them to not take this journey too seriously. 

This is age appropriate for high school seniors. The miniseries has a love scene that I didn’t see coming, so you may want to view it before showing it to a class. 

My recommendations: Please read and enjoy this murder mystery. It is enjoyable, a fun read. It was lovely to see my friends again. I just wish it had been different this time around.

Purchase Death Comes to Pemberley here. 

I enjoyed this article about the miniseries here.

Check out the lesson planning template that I use for creating and organizing my lessons here!

If you enjoyed this review, check out another that I wrote on The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin!

Mystery Story for 12th Grade Students Who Enjoyed Pride and Prejudice

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