Monday, August 13, 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley: Variation on a Theme by Jane Austen

by P.D. James
August, 2012

I've always steered away from novel "re-makes."  They were always marked in my book as uncreative and disrespectful to the original author.  The author sweated over every word, scratched and added for an eternity, and as a result created an entire new world.

For some reason, however, I have always loved classical music mixed with other genres, especially pop.  Maybe I see music as more of a living, flowing being that is supposed to be an experience welcome to change.  Our hymnals have songs with interchangable lyrics and tunes.  From Beethoven's Diabelli Variations to Mozart's Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman" composers have always played with each others music. 

After several encouraging reviews from trusted friends of this book, I decided to jump in and give it a go anyway.  I was immediately intrigued by the charming introduction summarizing the story of Pride and Prejudice and filling the reader in on what had occurred since the happy couples' weddings.  Throughout, I had to remind myself that the story felt slow due to the fact that Ms. James was doing an excellent job of imitating Jane Austen's style.  

However, this echoing only goes so far as syntax, the background of P&P, and the rough plot structure.  Mrs. James is not writing the romance we expect from J.A. movies so please don't look for Matthew Macfadyen and Kiera Knightly meeting each other in the morning mist.  Neither is she writing the satire we find in Miss Austen's original novels.  The characters we expect to be rounded out in this "sequel" appear flattened a bit, for she is not making fun of society's flaws nor exposing human nature in various relationships.  Characters we are willing to leave as simple villains or secondary characters she re-forms and expands to fit her purposes.

This is indeed a mystery novel of which P.D. James is evidently famous for.  This is the first of her's I've read, but it proved a pleasant read once I stopped expecting certain elements and began looking for a crime story.  The culmination of the mystery was not disappointing in anyway, and the cameos from other J.A. characters throughout the book as well as a quiet resolution of family struggles at the end of the book left me very satisfied.

Reading this variation forced me to compare it to the original works of Miss Austen which opened my eyes to what they really are and all the wonderful lessons they hold.  Because I heard the tune differently, I was forced to remember the original melody and analyze the chord structure, technique, and interpretation.  While I may not be ready for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I may learn to enjoy some "re-makes" as much as Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme by Paganini. 

1 comment:

Rebecca Ann said...

Ana I enjoyed reading this blog post very much. You shed some light on Jane that I never noticed or thought to notice before. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us and giving us me some new insight. It has been enjoyable to read while I have been away in TX. I miss you and I am praying for you!

<3 Becca