Thursday, June 2, 2016
Longbourn by Jo Baker
Release Date: October 8, 2013
• Pride and Prejudice was only half the story •
If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more 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 the laundry, 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 take 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 lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own. (courtesy of Goodreads)
You know, I liked this book. I say that with a hint of hesitation, because it's not a perfect book. And there are things that I disliked. That's go to a list.
-As a Pride and Prejudice obsessee, I loved seeing the Bennet family from a different angle - through the servants. I loved how the book followed along with the Pride & Prejudice story, in addition to the book's plot.
-I loved getting a feel for what running a household would be like in that era. The level of drudgery and work for little gain. I also liked seeing how the servants had their own lives right under the Bennets' noses.
-I liked the basic elements of the plot. Sarah comes into her own while slowly falling in love with James the footman. It wasn't the most original of plots, but there's a reason that coming-of-age love stories always work well.
-I felt like the book went overboard trying to showcase how hard life was. Emphasizing walking around manure and the ickiness of servant life. Not because it wasn't true, but more as an attempt to be as extreme as the perfectness of Jane Austen books. If Pride & Prejudice is going to be sparkling clean, let's make this as dirty as possible (in the literal sense, not the prurient sense). It was to prove a point, not to serve the story.
-Some of the choices Ms. Baker makes in this story will be heresy to Pride and Prejudice fans. The big glaring *wow* didn't really bother me, but it's something that will upset many Austenites. I did dislike how Mr. Darcy was portrayed in the story. Not because it was wrong - per se - but it didn't quite ring right with me.
-I wasn't fond of the ending. I can't decide if that's because it was too abrupt or because it wasn't the way I wanted it to end. A little of both, probably. I felt like it sort of petered out. Almost a fade to black. That's not exactly accurate, but it felt like she couldn't think up an ending or at least a way to write it to make it feel complete. Plus, I would have chosen a different path for the characters, but that's just me.
Overall, not a perfect book, but still one that I enjoyed and would recommend.