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@Download Ebook ì Longbourn â 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 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 I adore Jane Austen, and I was dreading reading this take on Pride Prejudice from the servants point of view I thought it was a crass cash grab on Baker s part, and that I d spend the entire novel longing to reread P P I couldn t have beenwrong I got entirely wrapped up in the story of Sarah, a servant at Longbourn, and felt impatient even with brief mentions of favorite characters Jane, Elizabeth , who seemed selfish, boring, and clueless because of their wealth Crucially, this I adore Jane Austen, and I was dreading reading this take on Pride Prejudice from the servants point of view I thought it was a crass cash grab on Baker s part, and that I d spend the entire novel longing to reread P P I couldn t have beenwrong I got entirely wrapped up in the story of Sarah, a servant at Longbourn, and felt impatient even with brief mentions of favorite characters Jane, Elizabeth , who seemed selfish, boring, and clueless because of their wealth Crucially, this novel does NOT feel like a gimmick it s beautiful and literary, and stands on its own non fans of Austen will love it too, I think It s become a cliche to love Jane Austen s books Her oeuvre is so popular that it has inspired a vast amount of fan fiction, much of it crap I ve been a Janeite for about 15 years and have read all of Miss Austen s works excepting her Juvenilia, which I m saving for a rainy day I ve also picked up dozens of the fan novels in an effort to extend the stay in her world I say picked up rather than read, because a great deal of the fanfic is insufferable and must be tossed after the first cha It s become a cliche to love Jane Austen s books Her oeuvre is so popular that it has inspired a vast amount of fan fiction, much of it crap I ve been a Janeite for about 15 years and have read all of Miss Austen s works excepting her Juvenilia, which I m saving for a rainy day I ve also picked up dozens of the fan novels in an effort to extend the stay in her world I say picked up rather than read, because a great deal of the fanfic is insufferable and must be tossed after the first chapter Longbourn is one of the exceptions The simple description is that it is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the servants point of view But it goes deeper than just a retelling Longbourn made the Bennet home come alive For the first time in all of my readings of PP, I felt as if I lived in the same house as Miss Elizabeth, Jane, Kitty, Lydia, Mary and Mr and Mrs Bennet I know what time the housemaids got up to light the fires and draw the water I know when the cook began preparing the dinner I know how the linens got washed, and how muddy it was to walk to Meryton to get supplies I even know a few secrets about the housekeeper that would have surprised Miss Austen.And this is where the two novels diverge Jo Baker has created full characters out of the servants, who are almost invisible in PP The story is mostly told by Sarah, a housemaid who has been working at Longbourn since she was orphaned at age 6 The cook, Mrs Hill, thinks of Sarah as family, and is worried what will happen to the staff if the estate is entailed away to Mr Collins I liked having the servant s perspective on this well known plot line it was a good reminder of how many people were actually affected by Mr Bennet s lack of a male heir.The story picks up quickly when a new footman named James Smith is hired Sarah thinks James has a secret and is determined to find out about his past Meanwhile, her head is turned by a handsome servant who works for Mr Bingley Sarah, who reminded me a bit of the headstrong Jane Eyre, thinks that life should be somethingthan just emptying chamber pots every day and always washing other people s linens If only someone would take notice of SarahI should warn diehard PP fans that if you re hoping to spendtime swooning over Mr Darcy, you will be disappointed Aside from Mr Wickham, who likes to lurk around the servants and tries to seduce a young maid, the men from PP are only on the periphery of this story You ll seeof the Bennets as the servants interact with them, but the downstairs plot takes its own path.Baker s prose is lovely, and I was enchanted with almost all of the book My one criticism was that too much time was spent on James back story, and I was anxious to return to Longbourn But that is a mere quibble in an otherwise wonderful novel Three cheers for Jo Baker for bringing the Bennet home to life In addition to Longbourn, my recommendations for the best Jane Austen fanfic are Pamela Aidan s An Assembly Such as This part I of a trilogy , Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken, and Amanda Grange s series of gentlemen s diaries, such as Mr Darcy s Diary, Mr Knightley s Diary, Colonel Brandon s Diary, etc I declare them charming and delightful reads Hoo, boy.Where do I start Actually, that s easy Any review of Longbourn should feature this warning right at the top If you are an Austen purist, this book will give you a stroke and a heart attack and possibly cancer So there s that.Oh, also Any novel written by a non servant is apparently required by law to feature at least one passage in which a character who is a servant will ponder life as a person of leisure and decide, Naw Overrated Yeah THAT happened.I wanted to adore this book Hoo, boy.Where do I start Actually, that s easy Any review of Longbourn should feature this warning right at the top If you are an Austen purist, this book will give you a stroke and a heart attack and possibly cancer So there s that.Oh, also Any novel written by a non servant is apparently required by law to feature at least one passage in which a character who is a servant will ponder life as a person of leisure and decide, Naw Overrated Yeah THAT happened.I wanted to adore this book because I m tired of people talking about how lovely life was in the Regency No, it wasn t Not even if you were rich, although that was miles better than being poor Even if you were rich, there was no plumbing, very little in the way of social mobility, and nothing remotely resembling a maxi pad, let alone a tampon Not even, in spite of what the author of Longbourn says, any napkins Where would you put one There wasn t anything in the way of underwear as we know it See Susanne Alleyn s awesome Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders for convincing evidence of that There was no reliable birth control, and no quick and easy food for those nights when you just don t feel like cooking Women spent all day preparing or looking after the work of food preparation, and routinely wrote their wills when they became pregnant.There were no no fault divorces, and very few he s TOTALLY at fault divorces even if your husband was an adulterous batterer And I m saving the worst for last here there was NO CHOCOLATE Okay, there was a drink called chocolate, but it was outrageously expensive and it wasn t sweet.I love Austen s novels, but I have no illusions about the era in which she lived and wrote I worked as a live in domestic myself, and I m constantly thinking about the servants who made those leisured lives possible.So I was excited to read Longbourn, a retelling of Pride Prejudice from the vantage point of one of the Bennet s housemaids I was sold when I read the pull quote every review featured If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she d most likely be a sightcareful with them Perfect Think about that the next time you read the scene in PP where Lizzy shows up at Bingley s house with her petticoat three inches deep in mud.I admire Jo Baker s determination to show the story from a different angle Her premise is solid, her prose beautiful.So why am I so put out by this book Partly because it s a bummer from beginning to end It s Les Miserables without the funny musical numbers I think it s just as dehumanizing to servants to assume their lives are endless misery as it is to ignore them Yes, this book has a happy ending, technically But it starts out bleak, it continues dire, and it crosses the finish line with a vague So that turned out okay, I guess Speaking of bleak Anyone who s read Bleak House will probably not find the surprise middle of Longbourn particularly surprising Many who have read PP will find aspects of it offensive Jo Baker takes a lot of liberties with PP I never thought of myself as a purist, but this bothered me For instance, she insists on following the heavily trod trodden trode whatever path of Mary Bennet being infatuated with Mr Collins Know what it says in the book about that Mary might have been prevailed on to accept him She rated his abilities much higher than any of the others there was a solidity in his reflections which often struck her, and though by no means so clever as herself, she thought that if encouraged to read and improve himself by such an example as her s sic , he might become a very agreeable companion She thinks he s a fixer upper, my husband commented when I read this to him But everybody movie makers, Austen sequel writers somehow turns this into Mary adoring Mr Collins from afar and longing to have him as her own And of course Baker follows suit.She also features quotations from PP at the beginning of every chapter Except in the flashback section, where they wouldn t make sense Except I don t think they make sense anywhere What are they supposed to be Messages from God Anyway Back to the liberties Mary s in love Mr Collins is a really nice guy, not at all pompous or judgmental Mr Bennet has a lot of lines, and one of them is cuttingly sarcastic One Are you ishing me Speaking of ish Baker talks about it a lot By name It is, apparently, everywhere in Regency England You couldn t open your carriage door without smacking into a load of ish I m surprised the publisher didn t offer a special scratch and sniff edition of Longbourn, just to get the point across Point being Wow, you guys, was there a lot of manure in the bad old days.You know what there wasn t The kind of 21st century thinking Baker gives her miserable underclass characters The line about how Miss Bennet could be a littlecareful of her things was perfect But there s no way a teenaged maidservant in the eighteenth century was thinking, Really no one should have to deal with another person s dirty linen Really This little revolutionary decided all on her own not that laundry day sucks a sentiment that holds true to this very day but that all people should have the doing of their own underthings Similarly, Mrs Hill the housekeeper is often burdened by Mrs Bennet s emotional demands Mrs Hill has quite enough work to do to fill her day already without having to offer a shoulder to cry on just when the bread is rising That works I love that.This very Mrs Hill overworked, miserable, a character who seems to exist only to be taken advantage of is the one who decides near the end of the book that, really, there s not much difference between living as a servant and being a genteel lady The end was all the same I mentioned this is a happy book, right The writing is very, very good The author has clearly done her research, and it shows without seeming show offy.But in the end, this book was just A Bummer Unfortunately I found this to be a stuffy contemporary literary novel in historical clothing, with none of the brio of Austen s own style and little insight to contribute about the characters or story of Pride and Prejudice.There s not much logic in how the plot of this book fits in with the above stairs developments of Pride and Prejudice The action of Longbourn doesn t consist of previously unseen repercussions of those familiar events, nor does it posit any new motives or influences that pro Unfortunately I found this to be a stuffy contemporary literary novel in historical clothing, with none of the brio of Austen s own style and little insight to contribute about the characters or story of Pride and Prejudice.There s not much logic in how the plot of this book fits in with the above stairs developments of Pride and Prejudice The action of Longbourn doesn t consist of previously unseen repercussions of those familiar events, nor does it posit any new motives or influences that provide alternate explanations for them At times, it feels as though Baker s characters are waiting for something to happen in PP, which only makes sense if you see the plot of PP as necessary or guaranteed which you can t, because the characters in that book are frequently surprised by news, choices, and revelations of the past Wickham appears here as a scoundrel, which we already knew, and the author seems very pleased with her insight that Mr Collins and Mary would have made a good match something that I think every reader of PP perceives and a luscious bit of permanently unresolved dramatic irony on Austen s part Baker adds backstory for a few major characters that can t feel consequential because it s entirely unmanifested in PP Unlike Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead which you could superficially say interacts with Hamlet the same way this wants to with PP, this book doesn t provide us with any cleverly interlocking alternate explanations, new plot twists, thematic extension, or characterization.Baker tries too hard to convince us of her commitment to gritty historical realism her frequent mentions of chamberpots, menstruation, mud, etc are cloying and to me seem to lack historical logic Would someone of that period spend so much time thinking about the dirtier aspects of existence, or would they view them as given, as background I d much rather read something that also acknowledges the beauty of historical times, like, for example, the passage in Doomsday Book about the snowy medieval Christmas Notably, Doomsday Book has plenty of gross scenes the point is that it has both, whereas this book perhaps unconsciously betrays a modern viewpoint by dealing mostly in grime and unpleasantness Similarly, there are moments where the protagonist, Sarah, acts in bold or independent ways that seem implausible for a character of her station in that period and unjustified by her personality They seem like things a modern young woman would do, so they only work if you are putting yourself into the story in her shoes.I ve complained a lot about this novel s relationship to PP Can it be considered successful as a freestanding novel Yes, somewhat, it s just that then it is a novel in a genre that I almost never enjoy Several reviewers have said that Baker writes like Austen, which I don t think is remotely true Austen wrote a brisk drama comedy of manners this is a ponderous romance Austen was matter of fact and sometimes pert this is self serious and tries to assign mystic import to even prosaic life events Austen requires you to read between the lines of straightforward seeming dialogue and descriptions to discover a character s motives or mindset Baker writes paragraph long descriptions of roadside foliage that are a single sentence Austen dealt in interpersonal relationships and power imbalances Baker is keen on totemic objects like James s collection of seashells.The plot didn t work for me on its own there were several key moments of this book where something was revealed with great pomp and circumstance that I d figured out long before, and I honestly couldn t figure out whether Baker meant the scenes as actual plot twists or satisfying resolutions of what the reader had begun to suspect I found Sarah likable, but there was something so soft focus and arbitrary about her relationship with James that I didn t care much about them.Obviously I considered this novel thought provoking enough to finish, but I didn t find it a success Read it if you like current woman oriented literary fiction skip it if you like Austen s wit Review copy received from Edelweiss.