Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Death comes To Pemberley by P. D. James

It's been a long while since reading a book as enjoyable as the latest from P. D. James - I relished very line, stayed up most of the night finishing it, and was sorry when it ended. James has accomplished quite a feat that must be read to be appreciated - she has taken the characters from Jane Austen's heralded Pride and Prejudice and seamlessly crafted a murder mystery, a tale rich with suspense, excitement, and wit.

The story begins some time after the ending of Pride and Prejudice - long enough for Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet to become engaged, marry, have two children and seemingly have settled happily into life at Darcy's magnificent estate, Pemberley. The year is 1803, the eve of the grand Lady Anne's ball, and the Bingley's have come.

Elizabeth is, of course, delighted to see her beloved sister, Jane, and the two are happily looking after final preparations for the ball when an unexpected visitor arrives - a carriage comes careening up the driveway carrying a woman who is screaming hysterically - none other than Lydia Bennet Wickham. She married a handsome rogue who was well paid to make a respectable woman of her. Now, her husband is soon discovered deep in the woodland, covered with blood, bending over the dead body of his dear friend, Captain Denny. Quite obviously, Denny has been viciously murdered (although we're treated to explanations from local medical experts), and Wickham is charged with the crime.

There are many hidden secrets at Pemberley, including the life of Darcy's grandfather who built a cottage for himself in the woodland where he lived and died accompanied only by his faithful dog. Now, the only residents of the woodland are the Bidwell's, a family headed by a man who has served Pemberley with pride for many years.

It's sheer joy to follow James as she brilliantly traces the fate of Wickham and its effect upon Pemberley and all of its residents. P. D. James and Jane Austen = superb reading .

- Gail Cooke

Good Living Street: Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900

Good Living Street: Portrait of a Patron Family, Vienna 1900
by Tim Bonyhady
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.40
Availability: In Stock

54 used & new from $12.80

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars NOT ONLY A COMPELLING TRUE ACCOUNT BUT A VALUABLE ONE, December 2, 2011

Art historian, curator, and environmental lawyer Tim Bonyhady set quite a task for himself when he began detailing the lives of three generations of his family - he succeeded brilliantly. Readers are given an up close and personal look at early twentieth-century Viennese art, culture, and family life - among the well-to-do, that is. Bonyhady is both a fastidious and fascinating writer, painting vibrant word pictures that may, at times, seem a minor detail yet serve to completely portray an event or person.

We learn not only of his family's love of culture but also of fellow devotees among the wealthy Viennese Jews. The author's maternal great-grandparents, Moritz and Hermine Gallia, were leaders in this enthusiasm. They were Jews who had converted to Catholicism for practical purposes (allowing them to fill positions that would be otherwise prohibited to them as Jews). Vienna's modern artists, such as Gustav Klimt who painted Hermine's stunning full-length portrait benefitted from their patronage. Then, the Holocaust in Austria when their daughter, Kathe, was arrested by the Nazis. Along with older sister, Gretyl, the family sought refuge in Australia.

Amazingly enough the family was able to bring with them what has been called "the best private collection of art and design to escape Nazi Austria." Items included paintings, furniture, chandeliers, furs, and two pianos. Nonetheless their arrival in Sydney was disorienting and difficult.

Bonyhady has searched diaries, papers, letters, calendars, etc. to bring us a compelling and valuable true story. Through the eyes of his family he has enabled us to clearly see Vienna at its cultural apex, the rise of anti-Semitism, the persecution of the Jews, and the anguish of resettlement. This is not only an intriguing account but an important one.

Highly recommended.

- Gail Cooke

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