When I first heard of the latest Jane Austen-inspired fiction, I was skeptical. (See #5.)
But I’m a sucker for a good plot device, and when I realized Longbourn is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ perspective, I got curious. I love Downton Abbey. I love Pride and Prejudice. Longbourn sounded like a fun new mash-up of two old favorites.
Longbourn focuses on the downstairs happenings at the Bennets’ home, mainly through the eyes of the housemaid, Sarah. The upstairs action featured in Pride and Prejudice is only dimly in the background, although some events hold more sway over the servants’ lives than others.
Darcy and Bingley are barely mentioned, but we see a whole lot of Mr. Collins, because if he marries a Bennet daughter, the servants’ jobs are safe for another generation. We also see a lot of Mr. Wickham … and if you’ve read Longbourn, let’s talk about what Jo Baker did with him!
I appreciated the layers Longbourn brought to the world of Pride and Prejudice. I’m not an Austen purist, and not among the (many) readers Jo Baker offended by messing with the beloved characters of P&P. The book even holds the occasional brilliant line. (“If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.”)
But Baker lost me with the central love story, which I found unbelievable and uncompelling. I’m perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief for a great story line, but this plot required too great a leap. A few lengthy wartime tangents also inspired a few yawns and disrupted the pacing.
You’ll love Longbourn or you’ll hate it. I didn’t like it at all–at least not for private reading. But if your book club has it slated for discussion, have no fear: Longbourn will make for an excellent discussion.
Have you read Longbourn or is it on your to-read list? No spoilers, please, but share your thoughts in comments.
***** ***** *****
When I first heard about Longbourn, I thought it might be fun to give away a copy here on MMD. But now that I’ve read it, I’ve lost my enthusiasm for that plan.
Instead of Longbourn, let’s give away a copy of the Cozy Classics edition of Emma that comes out this week. It’s still Jane Austen-derived, but a lot more crowd-pleasing. This series (which was featured in the 2013 Kid Lit guide) is completely delightful for young children and grown-up book nerds.
Cozy Classics present the classics through 12 child-friendly words and 12 needle-felted illustrations that manage–despite their brevity, and to my amazement–to capture the story in 24 pages. In addition to the four titles already available (including Pride and Prejudice), three new ones are coming out just in time for Christmas: Jane Eyre, Oliver Twist, and Emma.
To enter, just leave a comment. 18 or older, U.S. only. Contest ends at midnight EST.
UPDATE: The giveaway has ended and the winner has been notified, but comments will remain open so we can keep discussing Longbourn.