Saturday, July 19, 2014

P. D. James. Original Sin (1994)

     P. D. James. Original Sin (1994) I’d seen the video version of this novel, but never read it, in fact, it wasn’t on my shelves. Fay gave it to me when we visited in July, and I started reading it in Camrose. It lasted all our visit, and the flight home, and a couple of days after that. A big, fat book, with lots of digressions and back stories. The plot is simple: an ancient grudge results in murders that the perpetrator sees as doing justice. Dalgleish, Miskin, and Aaron assemble the clues, but they don’t have a case until the very end. However, the murderer spares them the inconvenience of a difficult trial.
     James was a very good writer. Her narrator  engages one’s sympathies for all the characters, and can convey the ambience of a place or a room. By the time she wrote this book, her publishers and her fans were willing to accept whatever she gave them, no matter how irrelevant or tangential to the plot. She created a world that the reader feels at home in, even when horror and evil stalk through it. Like Austen (whom she admired), James focussed on what she knew. The landscapes and cityscapes feel real. Her characters have the same mystery as real people; no matter how much we know of their thoughts and feelings, there is an unreachable core. The effect is that despite the detail James provides, there is a distancing from the story: we observe it, we don’t live it. Paradoxically perhaps, this deepens understanding. ***

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