Review by MJ Ryan
Published originally in 1949, Pemberley Shades has the distinction of being the second sequel to a Jane Austen novel. It’s difficult to decide if it is a more impressive to be the second or the fact that there was a gap of 37 years between the two. Considering the stack of Austen-inspired books I have on my desk to review for AustenBlog, I’m leaning toward the latter.
A “lightly gothic” tale, Pemberley Shades isn’t lighthearted enough to lift your spirits or gothic enough to instill terror or conjure up a sense of dread. It appears to be trying more for the latter by including many of the hallmarks of a gothic tale; a double of questionable sanity, a fainting fit, a derelict house and superstitions. But, all of these have logical, rather dull explanations; the double isn’t crazy, he’s artistic; Elizabeth faints due to a benign conversation (but it was in a dusty attic, natch), the house is more dated in décor than derelict. As I write this is occurs to me that the author was trying for the mood Austen set so brilliantly in Northanger Abbey. However, these are the characters from Pride and Prejudice, after all, and flights of gothic fantasy do not come easily to them. Add that to the fact that the comparison is just now coming to me, two weeks after finishing the book, and you get the idea of how far off the mark the author hit.
The book isn’t completely without merit and was, I confess, marginally entertaining. However, the lasting impression I have of the book is one of lost opportunity; the story idea was a good one, but the execution was flat.