It is a good thing that I am a lapsed football fan. Last night, I could have watched the Steelers put a whupping on the Ravens. But instead, I yielded to the female side of the household and watched the BBC adaptation of P.D. James’ novel “Death Comes to Pemberley. ”
In case you are tempted to watch this mini-series, I humbly offer you this review. If you are a Jane Austen fan, or a P.D. James fan, or both, I strongly caution you to have several drinks before watching this. Then you may find it humorous.
Warning: This review contains spoilers of the mini-series, but not of the book.
P.D. James’ novel is a fictional account of the world of “Pride and Prejudice”, set about 6 years in the future. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy have married, and they are settled at Pemberley, living happily ever after. But since this is a P.D. James novel, at least one murder must occur, and it happens on the grounds of Pemberley. Many of the old characters from Pride and Prejudice make an appearance here as the local magistrate attempts to solve the crime, and the residents of Pemberley undergo a severe crisis.
Jane Austen fans will have their opinions about how well P.D. James does at portraying Jane Austen’s characters at this later stage in their lives. However, there is no doubt that the BBC adaptation does violence both to P.D. James’s novel and to Jane Austen’s characters that the novel is based on.
Here are just a few of the problems with this mini-series, where it varies from the novel in a bad way:
1. First, the minor stuff. Elizabeth Darcy is not pretty enough. Mr. Darcy fell in love with a woman of much lower social standing than himself because he noticed her, and he noticed her because of her fine eyes, among other things. Mr. Darcy might have fallen in love with this Elizabeth, but first he would have to notice her, and he would not have noticed her because of the social barriers between them.
I contrast, Lydia Wickham looked too well. I understand that Mrs. Wickham would be one to spend too much money on fancy clothing, but the fact is that after living in relative poverty with Mr. Wickham for 6 years, she should look a bit more careworn.
The married women in this adaptation do not wear bonnets. Come on, BBC, you know how women dressed during this period. But now on to the more serious stuff.
2. In the novel, Elizabeth does not become “the detective.” She is a much more of a “supportive wife” throughout the book, not Nancy Drew. Oh, and she and Mr. Darcy’s relationship is not strained by this event.
3. In the novel, Mr. Darcy does not push Georgiana into an engagement with someone she does not love, even though she loves someone else who is quite respectable. Nor does he reverse himself shortly thereafter, causing the engagement to be broken. That is just not something Mr. Darcy would do.
4. In the novel, there is a minister at the prison who plays an important role in solving the mystery. He is completely cut out of the mini-series. Without this character, Elizabeth has to resort to being Nancy Drew.
5. In the novel, no cravats were loosened, no bodices were ripped (ok, I am exaggerating a bit here, but not much), and there was no pillow talk between a shirtless Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. Ewww!
6. In the novel, the chief suspect’s neck was not literally in the noose when Elizabeth runs up to the gallows with the signed confession, saving an innocent man from a hanging. This is not an American Girls’ novel, and Elizabeth does not save the day.
Now, do not say that I have not warned you.