Ant will ponder ife as a person of Naked Choke leisure and decide Naw Overrated Yeah THAT happenedI wanted to adore this book because I m tired of people talking about howovely ife was in the Regency No it wasn t Not even if you were rich although that was miles better than being poor Even if you were rich there was no plumbing very ittle in the way of social mobility and nothing remotely resembling a maxi pad Murder at the Mansion let alone a tampon Not even in spite of what the author of Longbourn says any napkins Where would you put one There wasn t anything in the way of underwear as we know it See Susanne Alleyn s awesome Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders for convincing evidence of thatThere was no reliable birth control and no uick and easy food for those nights when you just don t feelike cooking Women spent all day preparing or Healing Souls looking after the work of food preparation and routinely wrote their wills when they 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 the worst forast here there was NO CHOCOLATE Okay there was a drink called chocolate but it was outrageously expensive and it wasn t sweetI Seductive Surrender love Austen s novels but I have no illusions about the era in which sheived and wrote I worked as a Seductive Surrender (Highland Heather Romancing a Scot, live in domestic myself and I m constantly thinking about the servants who made thoseeisured ives possibleSo I was excited to read Longbourn a retelling of Pride Prejudice from the vantage point of one of the Bennet s housemaids I was sold when I read the pull uote every review featured If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats Sarah often thought she d most ikely be a sight careful with themPerfect Think about that the next time you read the scene in PP where Lizzy shows up at Bingley s house with her petticoat three inches deep in mudI admire Jo Baker s determination to show the story from a different angle Her premise is solid her prose beautifulSo why am I so put out by this bookPartly because it s a bummer from beginning to end It s Les Miserables without the funny musical numbers I think it s just as dehumanizing to servants to assume their ives are endless misery as it is to ignore them Yes this book has a happy ending technically But it starts out bleak it continues dire and it crosses the finish ine with a vague So that turned out okay I guessSpeaking of bleak Anyone who s read Bleak House will probably not find the surprise middle of Lo Reposted from my review at AustenBlogThe publication of Jo Baker s new novel Longbourn generated the same sort of excitement as the arrival of a single gentleman of good fortune It has been described as being a cross between Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey I read five chapters and then I admitted defeat I threw up my arms through a sea of frothy pink fluff and pushed it aside and emerged if not a better person then at east a relieved one with one ess cloud in my worldTo be fair I m not the 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 The Deepest Sin like to read books directly descended from Pride and Prejudice After Colin Firth is it possible to have too much Darcy Is it possible to have too much chocolate Is it possible to have too much candy floss Yes to theast sadly it is And was DNFA note on the writing It wasn t Jane Austen It wasn t AA Milne It wasn t bad in any way But it was perfectly one note shallow clear and descriptive and eft me in no doubt that what I saw was what I got That s all Maybe this is par for the genre If you enjoy period romances then you might ove the book this review It s become a cliche to ove Jane Austen s books Her oeuvre is so popular that 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 dozens of the fan novels in an effort to extend the stay in her world I say picked up rather than read because a great deal of the fanfic is insufferable and must be tossed after the first chapterLongbourn is one of the exceptions The simple description is that it is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the servants point of view But it goes deeper than just a retelling Longbourn made the Bennet home come alive For the first time in all of my readings of PP I felt as if I ived in the same house as Miss Elizabeth Jane Kitty Lydia Mary and Mr and Mrs Bennet I know what time the housemaids got up to ight the fires and draw the water I know when the cook began preparing the dinner I know how the inens got washed and how muddy it was to walk to Meryton to get supplies I even know a few secrets about the housekeeper that would have surprised Miss AustenAnd this is where the two novels diverge Jo Baker has created full characters out of the servants who are almost invisible in PP The story is mostly told by Sarah a housemaid who has been working at Longbourn since she was orphaned at age 6 The cook Mrs Hill thinks of Sarah as family and is worried what will happen to the staff if the estate is entailed away to Mr Collins I iked having the servant s perspective on this well known plot ine it was a good reminder of how many people were actually affected by Mr Bennet s ack of a male heirThe story picks up uickly when a new footman named James Smith is hired Sarah thinks James has a secret and is determined to find out about his past Meanwhile her head is turned by a handsome servant who works for Mr Bingley Sarah who reminded me a bit of the headstrong Jane Eyre thinks that ife should be something than just emptying chamber pots every day and always washing other people s inens If only someone would take notice of SarahI should warn diehard PP fans that if you re hoping to spend time swooning over Mr Darcy you will be disappointed Aside from Mr Wickham who ikes to Le valeureux guerrier lurk around the servants and tries to seduce a young maid the men from PP are only on the periphery of this story Youl see of the Bennets as the servants interact with them but the downstairs plot takes its own pathBaker s prose is Snowflakes on the Sea lovely and I was enchanted with almost all of the book My one criticism was that. Eaundry polishing the floors and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household But there is just as much romance heartbreak and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs When a mysterious new footman arrives the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely perhaps irrevocably upended Jo Baker dares to ta.
Too much time was spent on James back story and I was anxious to return to Longbourn But that is a mere uibble in an otherwise wonderful novel Three cheers for Jo Baker for bringing the Bennet home to Wrathful Chaos: Five Books of Satanic Philosophy lifeIn addition to Longbourn my recommendations for the best Jane Austen fanfic are Pamela Aidan s An Assembly Such as This part I of a trilogy Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken and Amanda Grange s series of gentlemen s diaries such as Mr Darcy s Diary Mr Knightley s Diary Colonel Brandon s Diary etc I declare them charming and delightful reads Youl think that I m being silly and hyperbolic when I say books ike this are the purpose that historical fiction is meant to serve but I mean it very sincerely Don t pick this book up wanting to swoon over Elizabeth and Darcy or expecting the narrative focus to be on the story Austen told in PP It s not about that It s about giving voice to the voiceless fleshing out the ghosts that would otherwise fade and be shred to pieces before the onslaught of time Blue coat black horse that was Mr Bingley The great tall fellow in the green was Mr Darcy again They clipped past the orchard in profile and oblivious to the housemaids Sarah felt herself fade She could see the eaves and branches through her hand the sun shone straight through her skinAnd now I can t wait to go back through PP and ferret out all the glimpses of Sarah and her ilk from which Jo Baker spun this tale Longbourn is simply tremendous It s the world of Austen made real Austen in context with all the mud and blood and shit that comes with that And it s so deep and beautiful and heart stoppingly real that I m in awe I didn t expect to feel so strongly about Longbourn when I first picked it up but it s far and away one of the best books I ve read in the past year Highly recommended When Lizzie Bennet went traipsing through the muddy fields mooning over Mr Darcy someone had to do wash those muddy petticoats When Mrs Bennet was fainting from the strain of arranging suitable marriages for her countless daughters someone had to fetch the smelling salts While the adies of the Bennet family spent their time in the eisurely fashion of gentlewomen in music and sewing and art and dancing and attracting promisingly rich husbands someone had to run the household cook endless dinners do aundry empty the chamber pots shovel the pig sh Three and a Half Stars In the Author s Note at the end of Longbourn Jo Baker writes One final note in Pride and Prejudice the footman appears just once in the text when he delivers a note to Jane page 31 of Volume One in my Penguin Classics edition After that he is never mentioned again Well that is an undeniable fact But what are we to glean from this tidbit That Baker found her inspiration from this one tiny glimmer into the world behind the scenes That Austen was remiss in showing only the Upstairs of early nineteenth century English country ife Much has been written about Jane Austen s omission of socio political context in her novels but in the end we are Love 2.0 (A Cates Brothers Book, left with the stories as she chose to tell them Full stopIn the same author s note Jo Baker tells us she has interfered only so far as the give names to the unnamed the butler footman and the second housemaid There ensued a great spluttering of coffee coughing and general wiping up The plot itself depends upon interferencesarge and small Early on Mrs Hill the Bennet s cook and housekeeper enters Mr Bennet s The Fix library and closes the door A central twist of the story is predicated on a very mighty interference indeed I m not convinced that 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 t It wouldn t exist without Pride and Prejudice But that s not really what I mean I mean that it s built upon the backs of Austen s characters Little has to be done by way of introducing or maintaining this supporting cast which is what the Bennet femmes et homme and their society neighbors are in this below stairs account ofife at Longbourne We who know Elizabeth Darcy and Wickham have already colored between those ines and need ittle in the way of further fleshing out For this first half of this novel I said a resounding No There is no there here Longbourn although far from an Austen pastiche reads ike a meticulously researched and ovingly crafted vignette of servant ife in a middle class Regency home There seems to be ittle point beyond showing the difficulties and deprivations of a ife in service and to point out that even in Georgian England people pooped masturbated and menstruatedThen the novel enters its stride Although I never ost the twitch of discomfort that Jo Baker was trying to make up for some absence of verisimilitude in the original the characters begin to The Casa Mono Cookbook live on their own accord as if the author herself snipped the ties constraining her to Pride and Prejudice It s somewhere around the time Wickham ventures into the kitchen toeer at Polly and we see each servant s response to his trespass that we fully finally enter the world of distinct complete characters who have to offer than 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 though much briefer is a recounting of Mrs Hill s troubles at Longbourn in the era before she became Mrs Hill From these points forward the characters above stairs become than ciphers and those below stairs develop backstories and backbones Jo Baker s writing though at times heavy handed with the metaphors is ovely She maintains a formal dignified diction that feels just right for the period and place without trying to emulate Austen s vivacity and wit She sprinkles in jarring vulgarities and peers inside chamber pots to et us know if they contain solids as well as iuids all of which seems a bit forced as if she were trying too hard to distance herself from Austen gentility but the moments are brief and tolerable Longbourn is a very engaging and enjoyable read The uality of writing is such that I will seek out Jo Baker s other novels and ook forward to her next though I hope she is finished outfitting 19th century classics with 21st century hindsigh. Ke us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry eyed kitchen maid into the gritty daily particulars faced by the ower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars and in doing so creates a vivid fascinating fully realized world that is wholly her own?.
Unfortunately I found this to be a stuffy contemporary iterary novel in historical clothing with none of the brio of Austen s own style and Lachlan's Protg (English Edition) little insight to contribute about the characters or story of Pride and PrejudiceThere s not muchogic in how the plot of this book fits in with the above stairs developments of Pride and Prejudice The action of Longbourn doesn t consist of previously unseen repercussions of those familiar events nor does it posit any new motives or influen Jane Austen meets Downton Abbey is the crude shorthand but this novel is so much I hardly dare say it Janeites are a fearsome bunch such talk could get me ynched Could this be better than the original Pride and Prejudice that is Perhaps better is not the right word but fuller Baker s is a fully convincing and unbiased vision of early nineteenth century English ife featuring multiple classes and races and it doesn t airbrush away unpleasant bodily realities Longbourn is for the most part meticulously contemporaneous with the action of Pride and Prejudice A house the size of Longbourn was run by a small band of servants all Baker has done in the way of invention is to give faces and stories to those previously nameless below stairs characters expanded roles for Mr and Mrs Hill the atter 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 the ineage of both Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre indeed the first ine is particularly reminiscent of Jane Eyre There could be no wearing of clothes without their aundering Like Miss Eyre Sarah is an eager orphan who turns to books for temporary escape from her troubles Conflict in Blood like Lizzie she faces a similar choice between two very different suitors and againike Jane she will set off on a fraught solitary adventure to secure true oveBaker builds sympathy for her characters by shifting between third person imited perspectives usually that point of view will be one of the 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 to the thoughts of one of the Bennets themselves here is Mary for example the distraction of those silly sistersIf they could but think of higher things of music religion good works instead of officers For the most part though we are The Crucified Ones: Calling Forth the End-Time Remnant limited to knowing whatever the servants can overhear or imply The Bennets utter obliviousness to the reality ofife for the ower classes is slyly juxtaposed with a growing awareness of the brutality of slavery Even on the second page Baker shows concern for those people of color omitted from Austen s world the sun would be shining on other places still on the Barbadoes and Antigua and Jamaica where the dark men worked half naked and on the Americas where the 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 to a new black character Ptolemy the Bingleys footman who turns Sarah s headBaker expertly mimics Austen s trademark use of free indirect speech and witticisms A prime example is when Sarah is sent out in the pouring rain to fetch decorations for the Bennet girls dancing shoes whereas the original text has the anonymous and passive the very shoe roses for Netherfield were got by proxy Sarah never has to open her mouth to issue this deliciously snide response The adies could Logic, Labels, And Flesh like the shoe roses or they couldump them Indeed she would rather Dialogue: Relationships in Graphic Design like it if theyumped them She rather The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths looked forward to their having toump them The epigraphs heading each chapter come directly from Pride and Prejudice but I only found one Modeling and Analysis of Communicating Systems line of word for wordifted dialogue in the main text eagle eyed Austenites correct me if I am wrong and Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice let me know if you spot the sameine I picked up on If you search the PP e book free here on Project Gutenberg you The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth ll be interested toearn that there are in fa The best word to describe this book is unpleasant It was a very unpleasant reading experience But I can and will be specific First of all technically this is a Pride and Prejudice retelling from the point of view of the Longbourn servants Good idea right I sure thought so And honestly there are some very good things in here I was very interested in hearing what kind of daily tasks made the Bennett ifestyle possible There s also a few great parts where you really see how much the servants care about each other But then First of all there s a terrible sexual awakening subplot I m sorry if I wanted to read a romance novel I would read a romance novel Second there s a really ong flashback seuence about war which has nothing to do with Pride and Prejudice at all If you want to write about the horrors of war that s fine but don t just say it s a Pride and Prejudice retelling to increase your audience That s cheap Third for someone who says she In Deeper loves Pride and Prejudice the author sure spends aot of time trying to convince readers that all of those beloved characters are d bags Seriously the only one of the Bennett s who comes out Personlighetspsykiatri looking OK in this book is Mary Of course and I m sure this wasn t intentional the main character Sarah is not a joy to read about either Stop whining you whiner Fourth the narrative is really all over the place One paragraph will be from Mrs Hill s POV then suddenly wel switch to Polly then to James for a second and back to Mrs Hill then maybe one of the Bennet kids will have a say Get it together author Finally the Audiology love triangle is so ridiculous Tol is clearly interesting and fun and the only reason that Sarah prefers James is to make the really stupid plot twist towards the end shockingmeaningfulThere you have it I did not enjoy this book even though I fully expected to I m not sure why it s gotten such good reviews but take it from me if you want a good servant story stick with Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey Hoo boyWhere do I startActually that s easy Any review of Longbourn should feature this warning right at the top If you are an Austen purist this book will give you a stroke and a heart attack and possibly cancer So there s thatOh also Any novel written by a non servant is apparently reuired byaw to feature at east one passage in which a character who is a serv. • Pride and Prejudice was only half the story • If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats Sarah often thought she’d most ikely be a sight careful with them In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice the servants take center stage Sarah the orphaned housemaid spends her days scrubbing th.
Jo Baker is the author of six novels most recently Longbourn and A Country Road A Tree She has also written for BBC Radio 4 and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies She lives in Lancaster England with her husband the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville and their two children