In vain have I struggled* – “Longbourn” by Jo Baker

October 23, 2013 at 9:00 pm 12 comments

“Longbourn” by Jo Baker. Published in 2013. 

I  do this to myself. I hear about a book and I think “I will not read that book about four angry single women who find love” or “I will not read this Jane Austen spin-off.” But then the New York Times Book review tells me that the book is good or a pleasant surprise and then, against all reason, I find myself in the middle of a book thinking “why did I do this?!!!”

longbourn-by-jo-baker-2013-x-200Longbourn” is about the servants in perhaps the best known household in British Literature, the Bennets.  This new take on “Pride and Prejudice” is…well…pointless.  It is mainly the story of Sarah, one of the housemaids, who has been in service since she was dumped on the Bennet’s doorstep as a young orphan.  She spends her days washing the soiled linens worn by  Jane and Lizzie Bennet, feeding the livestock, helping in the kitchen – all the while catching bits and pieces of the family conversations, heart breaks and scandals.  Her life is lackluster and pointless until the day the new footman is hired. Need I really say more?

This has been called “The Upstairs/Downstairs of Pride and Prejudice” or the “Austen Downtown Abbey” but it is actually neither. This is really just all about the servants.  And, while the reading is good and the story is fairly well executed (though a bit long in the middle), the fact that they are servants in the Bennett household seems to be a gimmick to sell the book.  Baker throws the reader the occasional storyline from “Pride and Prejudice” but it is all really not needed.  The story could hold its own and it is troubling that an author as famous as Baker couldn’t just have written the novel without riding the notoriety of the Austen spin-off.   But sadly, she did.  Of course, the gimmick is a good one.  Case and point, I am now an owner of “Longbourn” in hardback. Curses.

*Mr. Darcy, of course.


Entry filed under: October 2013 reads. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

It is all in how you tell it – “Memories of a Marriage” by Louis Begley Meeting Rowling – “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith (a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. truebluereader  |  October 23, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    I always have the same dilemma! I always say I won’t read another one and then I do. Sigh

    • 2. Anonymous  |  October 23, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      Oh well, there are worse things we could do:).

      • 3. Emily C  |  October 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm

        Very true!

  • 4. truebluereader  |  October 23, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    (and now that I read this, I’m definitely going to read this book!)

    • 5. Emily C  |  October 23, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      You will have to let me know what you think. Lots of people really liked it, so it could just be me.

      • 6. truebluereader  |  October 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm

        I just bought it on my kindle so I will let you know once I am done 🙂 I’m such an impulse book buyer….

      • 7. Emily C  |  October 23, 2013 at 9:28 pm

        Me too, that is the problem with having an e-reader – it is too easy for me to spend money.
        I hope you enjoy it.

      • 8. truebluereader  |  November 11, 2013 at 5:11 pm

        Well I finished longbourne. Still not sure how I feel about it. I really liked the concept of it but I think it could have been better. Still thinking about it!!

      • 9. Emily C  |  November 19, 2013 at 9:16 pm

        Oh well, we shall just have to reread “Pride and Prejudice”. 🙂

      • 10. truebluereader  |  October 23, 2013 at 9:25 pm

        i love austen (obviously) and love downton abbey, so a cross between the two could be really good. or totally ruin it!

  • 11. karenspath  |  November 4, 2013 at 10:10 am

    I did not enjoy the book. I think I would have liked it more if it had been independent of the Bennets. And yes, Mr. Darcy is the reason we read all the “fan fiction.”

    • 12. Emily C  |  November 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      I am glad someone else felt the same way!


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