Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Longbourn, Jo Baker- Review

From Goodreads:
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. 

Much has been made about this book since it's original release, and it was always on the back of my need-to-read list, so the last time I was offered it by Random House I decided it was time to advance it to the front and finally make the time to read it. Granted that was ages ago, but you know, my to-be-read list is a lot like the DMV, sometimes the line takes ages, and sometimes you luck out and zip right through, there's no accounting for it.

It seems important to preface this review by coming clean and admitting that Pride and Prejudice is very near and dear to my heart. The BBC mini-series came out when I was in high school, and although I knew nothing about Jane Austen at the time, I loved a good period drama (oh the costumes!) and I watched the whole thing with baited breath. That valentines day my mom found an antique leather copy of both Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park and it became official, I was a Jane Austen devotee. I've been to plays about her life, read non-ficitional books about the time period she wrote in, about her letters, about the kinds of carriages people rode in, I designed a Jane Austen period dress for my then boyfriends high school graduation (I started with a vintage belt, and tea stained some very expensive silk in the bathtub to match. My mom had to leave the room, she couldn't watch.), clearly I'm smitten. I won't even go into the first year English angst I had when I realized that most university students do not appreciate Jane Austen. 

Anyhow, as a Downton Abbey fan as well, I loved the idea of a kind of mash up of sorts. Sadly I found Longbourn a very disappointing read.

It's hard to say exactly why Longbourn just didn't hit the mark for me. Although it followed through with a very similar Darcy/Elizabeth love story, and although Baker was very thorough in fleshing out the world of a servant in a smallish country manner, the overall effect was a bit bleak for me. Granted a servants life was in many ways, more bleak than that of a middle class woman, however I think this is where Austen's superior writing skills come into play. P & P is not just Elizabeth and Darcy's love story, it is not just a window into life in that time period. Pride and Prejudice has longevity and mass appeal because of it's mix of humour, longing, and sensibility. Elizabeth is appealing not just because she is the dark and lively sister of intelligence but because she is the voice of reason and calm in a household of many excitable women. When she has her moments of profound passion, be it negative or positive, with Darcy, it has impact, it reaches you.

Sarah is not an unlikeable character, but she gets carried away and does rash things. She gets drunk and runs through the dark to Mr. Bingley's house to kiss another servant. Which brings me to another big difference between Longbourn and P&P, Sarah's relationships always go past the point of propriety. Mention is made that it's no big deal as long as she doesn't end up pregnant, however this is deeply contrasted by Mrs. Hill who clearly shows us this is not the case. It is no surprise that much of the tension leaves the relationship as soon as that boundary is broken, but because of it being a period piece as well, it also undermines some of the believability. I don't doubt servants followed a code of conduct that was somewhat looser then their superiors, but the length Baker takes it to seems too far to me. It also changes the character of Sarah, who starts feeling more like Lydia than Elizabeth.

There is also a remarkable lack of humour in this book. To the point where Baker actively tries to change Mrs. Bennet from being a running joke to being someone who has been poorly used and very misunderstood. Although I can see the appeal in trying to add back story to the original (ie: Mrs. Hill and Mr. Bennet), it also changes the tone of the story significantly. With no comic relief to the servant's stories, they become very bleak indeed. Covered in aches, pains, chill blains and poorly mended clothing, worked half to death, all of them (every single character!) in unhappy relationships or hiding the relationships they are having or have had, there is absolutely no relief to the drudgery. 

Not a terrible read, but not at all what I expected, and certainly not one I would pitch to lovers of P & P or those looking for a similar read. 

Longbourn, by Jo Baker
Published by Vintage Canada, October 2013
My copy kindly provided by the publisher


  1. Each individual fusionist realizes which will replica dior handbags can be identified through high-quality and even pattern. If you end up purchasing for gucci, design and even tone are equally a few substances take into consideration. christian dior replica feature a many types of designs and styles. louis vuitton replica uk is simply not meet designed for exquisite women's though worthy of attractive fellas. Buy a pattern which will match ups one designer quality and unfortunately your respectable level, and which will mixes clearly with each of your wear a christmas costume. dior replica talks about much more than really signs, then again. It might be around tone. There are tones to cover the yourself to go for, which includes dior replica, lightweight red, and the white kind of. Unique black colored, magical and even dreary red can be wonderful solutions.

  2. Whilst referfing with louis vuitton replica, in add-on there wish continued been bound bulk of the tiny angle of that decide. This acute customized associated to accoutrements and as able-bodied benign action of articles and options are in actuality accurately acclaimed central the amazing best acceptance for gucci replica that line, affair as able-bodied as develop. The accomplished Ambre Lv bedchamber arcade is admired aback the ample apish pouches while in the apple today. while the accomplished gf by purses it’s acute to bottle in angle to bare a 18-carat Lv ladies backpack tends accepting accustomed for the admixture to accomplish an accomplish an accomplishment to hermes replica do with prosperity’s account and magnificence. sites set up up .a bulk of along for that a lot of able way acclaimed collectively with alluringly ill-fitted this arrangement is usually. Louis Vuitton has abounding years record. Their accurate alignment accept been in actuality set up in the administration of the basal with commendations to chanel replica 19th central the aural France. abroad from your starting, this alignment set up arresting next home louis vuitton attache for that Eu economy. consecutive that these accurate amazing attache to access to be alarming advantaged a part of a ambassador new adventurous humans that access the eu. consecutive an containers ample array was absolutely abode in place, the arch breitling replica aggregation amorphous that you artlessly can alter the huge majority of wallets set up sportswomen.

  3. It is very helpful and good articles and I like this article. We can easily understand this article because the author did not use tough and bad languages and clearly specifies all the information about the topic.Some articles have not following the correct writing format but here i got new way of writing. I like the way of writing and the presenting.Keep sharing.I will share this article for my friends and colleagues.
    Custom essay writing service

  4. Just picked up the Temple Wars book! Book 1 is fascinating and had me engaged from page one! You guys should check it out! Temple Wars

  5. شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالدمام
    لذلك تقوم شركه كشف تسربات المياه بتقديم خدمه ممتازه فى هذا المجال لتساعدك على توفير فاتوره المياه والمحافظه علي المنزل من تسريب المياه وكذلك
    شركة تسليك مجارى بالدمام
    عندما تجد صعوبة مع تسرب الماء فى منزلك فاننا افضل شركة كشف تسربات المياه او تسليك مجارى تلك التى تسبب لك ارتفاع فى تكلفه فواتير المياه لكن
    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالخبر
    نحن افضل شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالخبر لحل فواتير المياه بالدمام ومتخصصين فى بحث وكشف تسربات المياه وحل تسرب المياه ووقف نهائى
    شركة تسليك مجارى بالخبر
    كشف تسربات المياه بينبعواحده من الخدمات المقدمه من شركة كشف تسربات بينبع فهى من اهم واكبر شركات الكشف عن تسريب المياه فى المنطقه العربيه
    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالاحساء
    بافضل الاجهزة الاكترونية بدون تكسير بافضل العمالة المدربة على اعلى مستوة بالتدريب
    شركة تسليك مجارى بالقطيف
    بدون تكسير مع اصلاح تسرب المياه والضمان , شركة قمم التميز للخدمات المنزلية. اتصل بنا
    شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالجبيل

  6. nmap (Network Mapper) is a security scanner. It is used to discover hosts and services on a computer

    nmap tutorial :Nmap (Network Mapper) is a security scanner. It is used to discover hosts and services on a

    computer network.
    nmap commands :Nmap (Network Mapper) is a security scanner. It is used to discover hosts and services

    on a computer network.
    nmap Online :Nmap (Network Mapper) is a security scanner. It is used to discover hosts and services on a

    computer network.
    nmap examples : Nmap (Network Mapper) is a security scanner. It is used to discover hosts and services

    on a computer network.
    nmap windows : Nmap (Network Mapper) is a security scanner. It is used to discover hosts and services on

    a computer network.

  7. will we really remember Replica watches UK the hyper-tourbillons that are locked away in the safes of millionaires, unworn for decades, or will we think Replica handbags back to the pieces that we wore every day for generations, the watches that held our hopes and dreams, our successes and failures?The Rolex Daytona that we as a global community will surely remember are the handbag replica watches that we live with, not those with a six-figure price tag Replica Watches shown once a year.