It rather amazes me that there are so many fans of Jane Austin out there. And so many historical fiction authors that are adding to her words or filling in whatever gaps she may have left. I recently read Longbourn which was on the best sellers list for a long time this spring. Here is my appraisal:
I’ve seen several versions of “Pride and Prejudice” both on television and in the movies, but have to admit I’ve never read the book. I know it is somewhat sacrilegious to say this, but much as I love her characters and their old-fashioned stories, Jane Austin’s plodding 18th century prose generally stops me cold.
Nevertheless, after reading “Longbourn” by Jo Baker, I feel I really must settle down and give the original book version a whirl. I need to know more about Mr. And Mrs. Bennet; their five sprightly daughters; and the farm in Hertfordshire.
Even if the author does rather take liberties with the original characters, the servants of Longbourn come miraculously to life under Jo Baker’s skillful literary pen in this parallel telling of their below-stairs, private lives.
Sarah the maid, who has been at the farm since she was orphaned in childhood, is beginning to experience the bloom of youth. She first finds herself drawn to the dusky mulatto footman of the neighboring Bingley household at Netherfield. And he is definitely quite smitten with her young, innocent beauty. But it is when she kisses the Bennet’s mysterious, new hired hand that she begins to realize there is more to life than washing other ladies’ dirty underwear and preparing roast chicken and mashed turnips for her “betters.”
Jo Baker’s characters are extremely well drawn and her settings beautifully described. I found myself easily transported to that time period with no great wish to return to reality.