I had this recommended to me years ago by a friend when I was in the middle of a Pride and Prejudice fan girl moment, and I’ve re-read it multiple times over the years. It is one of my go-to bath books, as you might be able to tell by the slight battering this copy has taken over the years.
I absolutely adored the introduction where the author takes you through what happened to everyone after the end of the Austen classic, catching you up on the fates of the Bennet family in a way that is both heart-warming and just a little bit quirky. I really enjoyed the little bit of sass generally sprinkled accross the book. However once we move past the initial setting of the scene I must confess that the book is not much of an Austen read, being totally focused on a storyline that was very un-Austen like.
I liked the authors note at the beginning, noting that this is exactly the sort of book the Austen would never have written herself. “Let other quills dwell on guilt and misery” she quotes her as saying – it did make me smile. Ultimately James has borrowed the setting and characters from the well-loved classic, but has then run off on her own tangent with the plot itself which she is absolutely entitled to do, though those looking for an Austen re-telling should realise that what they are reading is actually a murder investigation set in Austen-land.
As for the ‘whodunnit’ itself, I have to confess that the twist at the end was one that I did not see coming – the big reveal right at the last conceivable moment was one which had its foundations laid well throughout the story in such a way that the reader never notices it happening at all. There is suspician of course, and plenty to keep your mind working as you go along, as well as the development of familiar characters and relationship from the classic, as well as a slow-burn drama regarding the potential marriage of Darcy’s younger sister Georgiana which runs alongside the main plot.
Overall I found it to be an enjoyable read which I have regularly revisited over the years. As far as murder stories go it is not one of the great mind-benders, but it does have a satisfying ending. As far as Austen re-tellings go it is not entirely faithful to the Austen style, but it does breathe new life into familiar characters which was interesting and enjoyable. Ultimately it is a unique combination of the two styles which has made a well written, well loved stand alone book which I have every intention of reading again in the near future. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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