KINDLE DOWNLOAD Longbourn – alphabetpreschool.co.uk
It s become a cliche o love Jane Austen s books Her oeuvre is so popular hat it has inspired a vast amount of fan fiction much of it crap I ve been a Janeite for about 15 years and have read all of Miss Austen s works excepting her Juvenilia which I m saving for a rainy day I ve also picked up Unfortunately I found his o be a stuffy contemporary literary novel in historical clothing with none of he brio of Austen s own style and little insight o contribute about he characters or story of Pride and PrejudiceThere s not much logic in how he plot of his book fits in with he above stairs developments of Pride and Prejudice The action of Longbourn doesn consist of previously unseen repercussions of hose familiar events nor does it posit any new motives or influences hat provide alternate explanations for hem At imes it feels as hough Baker s characters are waiting for something o happen in PP which only makes sense if you see he plot of PP as necessary or guaranteed which you can because he characters in hat book are freuently surprised by news choices and revelations of he past Wickham appears here as a scoundrel which we already knew and he author seems very pleased with her insight hat Mr Collins and Mary would have made a good match something hat I hink every reader of PP perceives and a luscious bit of permanently unresolved dramatic irony on Austen s part Baker adds backstory for a few major characters hat can feel conseuential because it s entirely unmanifested in PP Unlike Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead which you could superficially say interacts with Hamlet he same way his wants o with PP his book doesn provide us with any cleverly interlocking alternate explanations new plot wists hematic extension or characterizationBaker ries oo hard o convince us of her commitment o gritty historical realism her freuent mentions of chamberpots menstruation mud etc are cloying and o me seem o lack historical logic Would someone of hat period spend so much ime hinking about he dirtier aspects of existence or would hey view hem as given as background I d much rather read something hat also acknowledges he beauty of historical imes like for example he passage in Doomsday Book about he snowy medieval Christmas Notably Doomsday Book has plenty of gross scenes he point is hat it has both whereas his book perhaps unconsciously betrays a modern viewpoint by dealing mostly in grime and unpleasantness Similarly here are moments where he protagonist Sarah acts in bold or independent ways hat seem implausible for a character of her station in hat period and unjustified by her personality They seem like hings a modern young woman would do so hey only work if you are putting yourself into he story in her shoesI ve complained a lot about his novel s relationship o PP Can it be considered successful as a freestanding novel Yes somewhat it s just hat hen it is a novel in a genre hat I almost never enjoy Several reviewers have said hat Baker writes like Austen which I don hink is remotely rue Austen wrote a brisk dramacomedy of manners his is a ponderous romance Austen was matter of fact and sometimes pert his is self serious and ries o assign mystic import o even prosaic life events Austen reuires you o read between he lines of straightforward seeming dialogue and descriptions o discover a character s motives or mindset Baker writes paragraph long descriptions of roadside foliage hat are a single sentence Austen dealt in interpersonal relationships and power imbalances Baker is keen on otemic objects like James s collection of seashellsThe plot didn work for me on its own here were several key moments of his book where something was revealed with great pomp and circumstance hat I d figured out long before and I honestly couldn figure out whether Baker meant he scenes as actual plot wists or satisfying resolutions of what he reader had begun o suspect I found Sarah likable but here was something so soft focus and arbitrary about her relationship with James hat I didn care much about hemObviously I considered his novel hought provoking enough o finish but I didn find it a success Read it if you like current woman oriented literary fiction skip it if you like Austen s wit Review copy received from Edelweiss Reposted from my review at AustenBlogThe publication of Jo Baker s new novel Longbourn generated he same sort of excitement as he arrival of a single gentleman of good fortune It has been described as being a cross between Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey When we heard his premise we were all admiration What a brilliant idea Two of he most wildly popular and well known popular culture properties now ogether It might be he greatest idea since some genius combined chocolate and peanut butter The Commercial Publishing Industrial Complex has predictably lost its mind over it frankly we are astonished hat its publication did not rip open he fabric of he universe creating a giant black hole hat sucked us all into itWhile his soundbyte selling point makes it simple for publishers and booksellers we hink it has done he authoress a disservice We hink Ms Baker was shooting for something less mercenary and ambitious he Wide Sargasso Sea of he Jane Austen oeuvre by which we mean a paraliterature itle hat strives for literary achievement as well as or perhaps even han popularity We have long wondered why no one has written such a novel Sadly Longbourn did not work for us either as ambitious literary fiction or as a PPDownton mashup There is nothing of he elegance of Downton Abbey and a Pride and Prejudice hat we do not recognizeThe story akes place almost entirely belowstairs at Longbourn domain of he long suffering Mrs Hill he butler Mr Hill he wo maidservants Sarah and Polly and he footman James The foreground story is heir melodramas and heartbreak and here is a lot of both while he familiar story of Pride and Prejudice unfolds in he background like a dimly heard radio play Sarah is pretty much he main character She is fascinated with one of Bingley s manservants a freed slave who impresses her with his sophistication and ells her stories of London Sarah finds James annoying and she is convinced he is a Bad Man who will cause rouble and wait a minute haven we read his story beforeThe link o Pride and Prejudice seems enuous o us other han perhaps he "romantic riangle The Bennets could afford han wo maidservants and it s silly o say otherwise The Bateses "triangle The Bennets could afford han wo maidservants and it s silly o say otherwise The Bateses Emma could afford o employ a maidservant surely he
BENNETS COULD EMPLOY THAN TWO IFcould employ han wo
If Baker ruly wanted o ell he story of he servants ofBaker ruly wanted o ell he story of he servants of and Prejudice and link it o he wildly popular Downton Abbey it would have been better o give he Bennets a fuller complement of servants If she wanted o write about overworked servants in Austen s ime don give hem o he Bennets Why not he Lucases for instance They are certainly involved in he main story or perhaps another neighbor If he idea really was hat marketable mashup it would have eual commercial potential marketed as a servant s story in Jane Austen s ime set in he world of her novelsWe are probably not he audience for his being on record as unappreciative of Gritty Realism We acknowledge hat it existed in hat ime and we acknowledge hat it is present in Austen s novels if one looks for it but Austen s pen famously did not dwell on guilt and misery and he darker aspects of her world are sketched in lightly shadowing he background upon which her characters are drawn Ms Baker seems o be determined o inform he reader hat life in hat ime at least for he servant class was dark dingy dangerous unpleasant painful and here is nothing wrong with hat but if some information is enlightening hen oo much becomes a blunt object concussing he reader One is sometimes ruly stunned by he imagery for instance militia officers converge on he Phillips house like lice on a beggar s head We struggled hrough his book constantly pulled out of it by his determination o dunk Austen s work in a literary mud puddle It seems o us a subversion of Pride and Prejudice not a celebration of it No doubt hat is purposeful but it does not interest us and marketing it o Austen fans seems disingenuous There seems o be a determination o make us hink ill of Austen s characters for committing he sin of making work for he servants If he somewhat sanitized version of GeorgianRegency England portrayed in many Austen film adaptations is overly romantic wallowing in filth poverty and misery has a romance of its own hat is eually dangerousWe still like he idea of a PPDownton mashup but we would have preferred something different a properly big cast of servants and a jolly rollicking ale of belowstairs hijinks There would be work hard work sometimes dirty work and all he sualid details of bodily fluids could have been worked in if absolutely necessary but importantly it would have been fun and he companion piece hat Austen s light bright and sparkling masterpiece deserved Longbourn is ambitious and beautifully written we wish we could like it but we cannot When Lizzie Bennet went raipsing hrough he muddy fields mooning over Mr Darcy someone had o do wash hose muddy petticoats When Mrs Bennet was fainting from he strain of arranging suitable marriages for her countless daughters someone had o fetch he smelling salts While he ladies of he Bennet family spent heir ime in he leisurely fashion of gentlewomen in music and sewing and art and dancing and attracting promisingly rich husbands someone had o run he household cook endless dinners do laundry empty he chamber pots shovel he pig shit clean he outhouse run errands scrub floors ravel o he village and surrounding estates hrough he rain and mud and do anything and everything o allow he cream and crop of gentle society o enjoy heir leisurely lives hat made Austen s novels such great escapist reading If Elizabeth had he washing of her own petticoats Sarah often hought she d most likely be a sight careful with hem This is a story of hose someones he characters hat were lost in he background of he shiny glossy lives of he rich and mighty in he imelessly alluring Pride and Prejudice Invisible in he refined society and herefore he original book pages hey are allowed o ake center stage here Perhaps hat was why hey spoke instructions at her from behind an embroidery hoop or over he op of a book she had scrubbed away heir sweat heir stains heir monthly blood she knew hey weren as rarefied as angels and so hey just couldn look her in he eye Unlike Austen s novel hat inspired he book and upon he familiarity with which he plot of his one hinges Longbourn lacks he escapist allure of humor and attractiveness Instead it is serious and often bleak which makes sense as it is deliberately focused on he unglamorous aspects of life in Austen • Pride and Prejudice was only half he story • If Elizabeth Bennet had he washing of her own petticoats Sarah often hought she’d most likely be a sight careful with hem In his irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer o Pride and Prejudice he servants ake center stage Sarah he orphaned housemaid spends her days scrubbing h. World Unglamorous sufficiently o give me enough details about chamber pots and he outhouse and menstrual blood stains o last me for a very long ime really Would she at some ime have he chance o care for her own hings her own comforts her own needs and not just for other people s Could she one day have what she wanted rather han rely on he glow of other people s happiness o keep her warm Sarah is a young housemaid an orphan raised in he Bennett s estate of Longbourne Despite being he same age as Lizzie Bennet and living in her house Sarah s life and Lizzie s life might as well be in different universes Overworked and ired because Bennets preferred lifestyle and heir modest by he rich landowners standards means do not always align Sarah s concerns are not he leisurely pursuits of respectably rich matrimony but rather he endless house chores and chilblains and blisters from her work and he knowledge hat very little in her life belongs o her Her destiny is o grow old caring for he needs and wants of others and she is encouraged o be grateful for his lot in life o find satisfaction in her duties o be content with stability hat such sad existence brings But it s hard o settle for just hat isn it This she reflected as she crossed he rainy yard and strode out o he necessary house and slopped he pot s contents down he hole his was her duty and she could find no satisfaction in it and found it strange hat anybody might hink a person could She rinsed he pot out at he pump and left it o freshen in he rain If his was her duty hen she wanted someone else s Going into his book I expected or less a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from he below he stairs point of view And o a point yes his story depends on you being familiar with Austen s book he plot and he characters But hose characters stay mostly behind he scenes and he events hat mattered so much in Austen s story are barely conseuential in his one All he Bingley and Darcy dramas are not even noticed Lydia s elopement is important only because of sheer disturbance it causes in he domestic life Otherwise he life below stairs is shaped much by he everyday life occurrences and he storms in he lives of Pride and Prejudice characters barely cause ripples in he lives of Longbourn bunchIt s all just a background noise for he servants who are occupied with pressing issuesOf course some characters end up diverging a bit from Austen s novel like it or hate it I m not an Austen purist or even her particular fan so o me it was just fine but it may irk a few of her devoted fans with he subtle and not so subtle digs at he characters Mr Collins for instance is not he appallingly dull human being but a rather average man who is nice o servants Darcy pops in for half a minute if hat The source of Bingley s family money is shown o be beyond unsavory and repellent Mrs Bennet is certainly sympathetic and less of a buffoon hat she comes off in Austen s book And Mr Bennet is revealed o have some secrets hat certainly do not paint him in he best light It had been a dreadful miscalculation she saw hat now hat all of hem should be unhappy so hat he should not be disgraced The language of he book is also not meant o carry on Austen s wit and humor and sparkle Just like he choice o show he grittier and dirtier part of life in he Austen world he language here is meant o be harsher and rougher and serious And he sensibilities are certainly betraying he ime it was written in a couple of centuries after he originalAnd I liked it a lot The real everyday issues of he working people were connecting with me much han he leisurely dramas of Austen s novels perhaps because I can really relate o he life of wealth and leisure and lazy mornings and boring afternoons Jane Austen s book is lovely and beautiful but I also love his one as its grittier less refined working companion4 ish stars and a plan o "reread Pride and Prejudice with houghts of he lives of hose "Pride and Prejudice with houghts of he lives of
*those in hat novel uietly working in kitchens and stables and carrying out hose ever present chamber pots The best *in hat novel uietly working in kitchens and stables and carrying out hose ever present chamber pots The best o describe his book is unpleasant It was a very unpleasant reading experience But I can and will be specific First of all echnically his is a Pride and Prejudice retelling from he point of view of he Longbourn servants Good idea right I sure hought so And honestly here are some very good hings in here I was very interested in hearing what kind of daily asks made he Bennett lifestyle possible There s also a few great parts where you really see how much he servants care about each other But hen First of all here s a errible sexual awakening subplot I m sorry if I wanted o read a romance novel I would read a romance novel Second here s a really long flashback seuence about war which has nothing o do with Pride and Prejudice at all If you want o write about he horrors of war hat s fine but don just say it s a Pride and Prejudice retelling o increase your audience That s cheap Third for someone who says she loves Pride and Prejudice he author sure spends a lot of ime rying o convince readers hat all of hose beloved characters are d bags Seriously he only one of he Bennett s who comes out looking OK in his book is Mary Of course and I m sure his wasn intentional he main character Sarah is not a joy o read about either Stop whining you whiner Fourth he narrative is really all over he place One paragraph will be from Mrs Hill s POV hen suddenly we ll switch o Polly hen o James for a second and back o Mrs Hill hen maybe one of he Bennet kids will have a say Get it ogether author Finally he love riangle is so ridiculous Tol is clearly interesting and fun and he only reason hat Sarah prefers James is o make he really stupid plot wist owards he end shockingmeaningfulThere you have it I did not enjoy his book even hough I fully expected o I m not sure why it s gotten such good reviews but ake it from me if you want a good servant story stick with Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey Hoo boyWhere do I startActually hat s easy Any review of Longbourn should feature his warning right at he op If you are an Austen purist his book will give you a stroke and a heart attack and possibly cancer So here s hatOh also Any novel written by a non servant is apparently reuired by law o feature at least one passage in which a character who is a servant will ponder life as a person of leisure and decide Naw Overrated Yeah THAT happenedI wanted o adore his book because I m ired of people alking about how lovely life was in he Regency No it wasn Not even if you were rich although hat was miles better han being poor Even if you were rich here was no plumbing very little in he way of social mobility and nothing remotely resembling a maxi pad let alone a ampon Not even in spite of what he author of Longbourn says any napkins Where would you put one There wasn anything in he way of underwear as we know it See Susanne Alleyn s awesome Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders for convincing evidence of hatThere was no reliable birth control and no uick and easy food for hose nights when you just don feel like cooking Women spent all day preparing or looking after he work of food preparation and routinely wrote heir wills when hey became pregnantThere were no no fault divorces and very few he s TOTALLY at fault divorces even if your husband was an adulterous batterer And I m saving he worst for last here here was NO CHOCOLATE Okay here was a drink called chocolate but it was outrageously expensive and it wasn sweetI love Austen s novels but I have no illusions about he era in which she lived and wrote I worked as a live in domestic myself and I m constantly hinking about he servants who made hose leisured lives possibleSo I was excited o read Longbourn a retelling of Pride Prejudice from he vantage point of one of he Bennet s housemaids I was sold when I read he pull uote every review featured If Elizabeth Bennet had he washing of her own petticoats Sarah often hought she d most likely be a sight careful with hemPerfect Think about hat he next ime you read he scene in PP where Lizzy shows up at Bingley s house with her petticoat hree inches deep in mudI admire Jo Baker s determination o show he story from a different angle Her premise is solid her prose beautifulSo why am I so put out by his bookPartly because it s a bummer from beginning o end It s Les Miserables without he funny musical numbers I hink it s just as dehumanizing o servants o assume heir lives are endless misery as it is o ignore hem Yes his book has a happy ending echnically But it starts out bleak it continues dire and it crosses he finish line with a vague So hat urned out okay I guessSpeaking of bleak Anyone who s read Bleak House will probably not find he surprise middle of Longbourn particularly surprising Many who have read PP will find aspects of it offensive Jo Baker akes a lot of liberties with PP I never hought of myself as a purist but his bothered me For instance she insists on following he heavily rod rodden rode whatever path of Mary Bennet being infatuated with Mr Collins Know what it says in he book about hat Mary might have been prevailed on o accept him She rated his abilities much higher han any of he others here was a solidity in his reflections which often struck her and hough by no means so clever as herself she hought hat if encouraged o read and improve himself by such an example as her s sic he might become a very agreeable companionShe hinks he s a fixer upper
MY HUSBAND COMMENTED WHEN I READ THIS TO HIMhusband commented when I read his o him everybody movie makers Austen seuel writers somehow urns his into Mary adoring Mr Collins from afar and longing o have him as her own And of course Baker follows suitShe also features uotations from PP at he beginning of every chapter Except in he flashback section where hey wouldn make sense Except I don hink hey make sense anywhere What are hey supposed o be Messages from GodAnyway Back o he liberties Mary s in love Mr Collins is a really nice guy not at all pompous or judgmental Mr Bennet has a lot of lines and one of hem is cuttingly sarcastic One Are you ishing meSpeaking of ish Baker alks about it a lot By name It is apparently everywhere in Regency England You couldn open your carriage door without smacking into a load of ish I m surprised he publisher didn offer a special scratch and sniff edition of Longbourn just o get he point across Point being Wow you guys was here a lot of manure in he bad old daysYou know what here wasn The kind of 21st century hinking Baker gives her miserable underclass characters The line about how Miss Bennet could be a little careful of her hings was perfect But here s no way a eenaged maidservant in he eighteenth century was hinking Really no one should have o deal with another person s dirty linen Really This little E laundry polishing he floors and emptying he chamber pots for he Bennet household But here is just as much romance heartbreak and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as here is upstairs When a mysterious new footman arrives he orderly realm of he servants’ hall hreatens o be completely perhaps irrevocably upended Jo Baker dares o a.
Jo Baker ✓ 1 FREE READEvolutionary decided all on her own not hat laundry day sucks a sentiment hat holds rue o his very day but hat all people should have he doing of heir own underthings Similarly Mrs Hill he housekeeper is often burdened by Mrs Bennet s emotional demands Mrs Hill has uite enough work o do o fill her day already without having o offer a shoulder o cry on just when he bread is rising That works I love hatThis very Mrs Hill overworked miserable a character who seems o exist only o be aken advantage of is he one who decides near he end of he book hat really here s not much difference between living as a servant and being a genteel lady The end was all he sameI mentioned his is a happy book rightThe writing is very very good The author has clearly done her research and it shows without seeming show offyBut in he end his book was just A Bummer You ll hink hat I m being silly and hyperbolic when I say books like his are he purpose hat historical fiction is meant o serve but I mean it very sincerely Don pick his book up wanting o swoon over Elizabeth and Darcy or expecting he narrative focus o be on he story Austen old in PP It s not about hat It s about giving voice o he voicel Jane Austen meets Downton Abbey is he crude shorthand but his novel is so much I hardly dare say it Janeites are a fearsome bunch such alk could get me lynched Could his be better han he original Pride and Prejudice hat is Perhaps better is not he right word but fuller Baker s is a fully convincing and unbiased vision of early nineteenth century English life featuring multiple classes and races and it doesn airbrush away unpleasant bodily realities Longbourn is for he most part meticulously contemporaneous with he action of Pride and Prejudice A house he size of Longbourn was run by a small band of servants all Baker has done in he way of invention is o give faces and stories o hose previously nameless below stairs characters expanded roles for Mr and Mrs Hill he latter both housekeeper and cook young maids Sarah and Polly and a new footman with murky origins James SmithOur protagonist housemaid Sarah is a feisty heroine from he lineage of both Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre indeed he first line is particularly reminiscent of Jane Eyre There could be no wearing of clothes without heir laundering Like Miss Eyre Sarah is an eager orphan who urns o books for emporary escape from her roubles like Lizzie she faces a similar choice between wo very different suitors and again like Jane she will set off on a fraught solitary adventure o secure rue loveBaker builds sympathy for her characters by shifting between hird person limited perspectives usually hat point of view will be one of he servants as in Sarah s view of Jane Bennet She was as sweet soothing and undemanding as a baked milk pudding But occasionally readers are privy o he houghts of one of he Bennets hemselves here is Mary for example he distraction of hose silly sistersIf hey could but hink of higher hings of music religion good works instead of officers For he most part hough we are limited o knowing whatever he servants can overhear or imply The Bennets utter obliviousness o he reality of life for he lower classes is slyly juxtaposed with a growing awareness of he brutality of slavery Even on he second page Baker shows concern for hose people of color omitted from Austen s world he sun would be shining on other places still on he Barbadoes and Antigua and Jamaica where he dark men worked half naked and on he Americas where he Indians wore almost no clothes at all Footman James is a committed abolitionist with a copy of Wilberforce by his bedside and Baker gives a significant role o a new black character Ptolemy he Bingleys footman who urns Sarah s headBaker expertly mimics Austen s rademark use of free indirect speech and witticisms A prime example is when Sarah is sent out in he pouring rain o fetch decorations for he Bennet girls dancing shoes whereas he original ext has he anonymous and passive he very shoe roses for Netherfield were got by proxy Sarah never has o open her mouth o issue his deliciously snide response The ladies could like he shoe roses or hey could lump hem Indeed she would rather like it if hey lumped hem She rather looked forward o heir having o lump hem The epigraphs heading each chapter come directly from Pride and Prejudice but I only found one line of word for word lifted dialogue in he main ext eagle eyed Austenites correct me if I am wrong and let me know if you spot he same line I picked up on If you search he PP e book free here on Project Gutenberg you ll be interested o learn hat here are in fact allusions o a Longbourn footman and a serving Sarah in chapters 7 and 55 respectivelyWhere Longbourn diverges most noticeably from Pride and Prejudice is in its unflinching portrayal of he physical reality of early nineteenth century life chilblains scars lice reeking chamber pots animal slaughter napkins soaked with menstrual blood even underarm hair you mean he Bennet girls had hairy pits say it ain so Even behind he fine appearances of he Netherfield ball guests all Sarah can see is he same old freckles and wrinkles and bad breath and smallpox scars and limping goutHer envy puffed up into smoke and was gone on "The Wind Nonetheless I "wind Nonetheless I hink here s anything here hat will upset Austen lovers while here is plenty hat should draw in new fans I hink Longbourn might particularly appeal o hose male readers who have previously professed hat Austen isn heir cup of ea who are oo jaded and knowing or just oo darn cool for his chick stuff They will find hat here is just he right level of earthiness here o root he romantic plot in reality Kudos o Jo Baker and bon app it o all you lucky readers who soon get o encounter his errific novel for he first imeA slightly expanded version of his review is at Bookkaholic I read five chapters and hen I admitted defeat I hrew up my arms hrough a sea of frothy pink fluff and pushed it aside and emerged if not a better person hen at least a relieved one with one less cloud in my worldTo be fair I m not he audience for any kind of romance except perhaps classics But I am fascinated with Jane Austen and having recently read AA Milne s superlative stage play Miss Elizabeth Bennet I felt I would like o read books directly descended from Pride and Prejudice After Colin Firth is it possible o have oo much Darcy Is it possible o have oo much chocolate Is it possible o have oo much candy floss Yes o he last sadly it is And was DNFA note on he writing It wasn Jane Austen It wasn AA Milne It wasn bad in any way But it was perfectly one note shallow clear and descriptive and left me in no doubt hat what I saw was what I got That s all Maybe his is par for he genre If you enjoy period romances hen you might love he book his review is my impression and not one hat should influence you in any way Three and a Half Stars In he Author s Note at he end of Longbourn Jo Baker writes One final note in Pride and Prejudice he footman appears just once in he ext when he delivers a note o Jane page 31 of Volume One in my Penguin Classics edition After hat he is never mentioned again Well hat is an undeniable fact But what are we o glean from his idbit That Baker found her inspiration from his one iny glimmer into he world behind he scenes That Austen was remiss in showing only he Upstairs of early nineteenth century English country life Much has been written about Jane Austen s omission of socio political context in her novels but in he end we are left with he stories as she chose o ell hem Full stopIn he same author s note Jo Baker ells us she has interfered only so far as he give names o he unnamed he butler footman and he second housemaid There ensued a great spluttering of coffee coughing and general wiping up The plot itself depends upon interferences large and small Early on Mrs Hill he Bennet s cook and housekeeper enters Mr Bennet s library and closes he door A central wist of he story is predicated on a very mighty interference indeed I m not convinced hat anyone who has read Pride and Prejudice can accurately assess whether Longbourn could stand on its own a story complete Well for heaven s sake of course it couldn It wouldn exist without Pride and Prejudice But hat s not really what I mean I mean hat it s built upon he backs of Austen s characters Little has o be done by way of introducing or maintaining his supporting cast which is what he Bennet femmes et homme and heir society neighbors are in his below stairs account of life at Longbourne We who know Elizabeth Darcy and Wickham have already colored between hose lines and need little in he way of further fleshing out For his first half of his novel I said a resounding No There is no here here Longbourn although far from an Austen pastiche reads like a meticulously researched and lovingly crafted vignette of servant life in a middle class Regency home There seems o be little point beyond showing he difficulties and deprivations of a life in service and o point out hat even in Georgian England people pooped masturbated and menstruatedThen he novel enters its stride Although I never lost he witch of discomfort hat Jo Baker was rying o make up for some absence of verisimilitude in he original he characters begin o live on heir own accord as if he author herself snipped he ies constraining her o Pride and Prejudice It s somewhere around he ime Wickham ventures into he kitchen o leer at Polly and we see each servant s response o his respass hat we fully finally enter he world of distinct complete characters who have o offer han chilblains and chamber pots Baker won me over however with Longbourn s enigmatic footman James Smith She creates a haunting portrait of a soldier s experience during Napolean s Guerilla war in Spain and Portugal Eually moving hough much briefer is a recounting of Mrs Hill s roubles at Longbourn in he era before she became Mrs Hill From hese points forward he characters above stairs become han ciphers and hose below stairs develop backstories and backbones Jo Baker s writing hough at imes heavy handed with he metaphors is lovely She maintains a formal dignified diction
that feels just right for he period and place without rying o emulate Austen s vivacity and witfeels just right for he period and place without rying o emulate Austen s vivacity and wit sprinkles in jarring vulgarities and peers inside chamber pots o let us know if hey contain solids as well as liuids all of which seems a bit forced as if she were rying oo hard o distance herself from Austen gentility but he moments are brief and olerable Longbourn is a very engaging and enjoyable read The uality of writing is such hat I will seek out Jo Baker s other novels and look forward o her next hough I hope she is finished outfitting 19th century classics with 21st century hindsight. Ke us beyond he drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic into he often overlooked domain of he stern housekeeper and he starry eyed kitchen maid into he gritty daily particulars faced by he lower classes in Regency England during he Napoleonic Wars and in doing so creates a vivid fascinating fully realized world hat is wholly her own?.