Top critical review
The key to enjoying this book is not to expect too much...
on July 30, 2001
The above is my only explanation as to why people seem so fond of this book. I was looking for an exciting sequel to P&P (and I imagine if you're reading this, you're probably doing the same ;-). In my quest to read only the best sequels, I read all the amazon customer reviews of all the P&P "sequels" and quickly eliminated anything by Emma Tennant. This book by Ms. Dawkins and Linda Berdoll's The Bar Sinister had the best customer reviews, so I got them both.
I was SOOOO looking forward to this book that when I finally received it, I was pretty disappointed. The story was...nice. There was, unfortunately, no real spunk, no real wit, no real plot. It's very sweet, almost to the point of annoyance, really. The characters don't seem to evolve and while I understand the format of the book (letters from Lizzy to Jane during her first year of marriage to Mr. Darcy) may be somewhat limiting, I felt the characters were portrayed in a one-dimensional and completely predictable light.
More specifically, there were a couple things that pushed this book from being acceptably sweet to annoyingly unrealistic. First, there was absolutely no mention of any conflict between Lizzy and Mr. Darcy...EVER. I find this hard to believe. Of course I expected the Darcys to be happy, but this book made it seem too perfect. Second, Lizzy kept referring to her "satirical eye." I may be wrong, but I thought it seemed a little out of character that Lizzy would be saying these things about herself. It seemed like she was praising herself or something, which is weird since so much of her appeal stems from the fact that she is so unassuming in her witty and satirical observations.
I think if you're a purist (which I'm not), you'll enjoy this. Many people seem to think that Ms. Dawkins does a very good job of capturing JA's writing style. For my part, writing style is less important--I prefer sequels where the CHARACTERS, rather than the writing style, stay true to the spirit of the original text. Here, Darcy and Lizzy have very little of the original spunk which made them such a dynamic couple. I actually prefer Linda Berdoll's The Bar Sinister. Although the writing is much less polished in that book than in this, the Darcys are portrayed in that book as fun, passionate, and real people...not perfect as they are here. Be forewarned, however. The Bar Sinister is much more risque than Letters from Pemberley, so purists may be offended (the Darcys actually hav s-e-x [and lots of it] in that book). However, that book, unlike this, also has substantial character development and a real plot. If you're looking for a substantial P&P sequel, you might want to check that out (almost 500 pages). On the other hand, if you have a couple of hours to kill, Letters from Pemberley may be worth your while. It's light and breezy and, if you're not expecting a whole lot, you might actually be pleasantly surprised.