Longbourn by Jo Baker

 

Publisher: Transworld Digital
Publishing Date: August 15th 2013
Genre: Historical fiction, romance, retelling
ASIN: B00CQ1D3BY
Goodreads: 3.75
Rating: ★★★★

 

It was a coincidence that brought this book to my attention only perhaps a week before I read it, when I was going over an article about the best fictional books of 2013. I may have perhaps stumbled upon its name, may have had a look at it as one of the releases out in the August of 2013 but never gave it a second glance and even forgot its existence. But it seems like it was destined, so I came to read Longbourn.

Though it cannot be labeled as a retelling of Austen’ Pride & Prejudice, Jo Baker’ Longbourn does find its inspiration and roots in Lizzie & Darcy’ romance.  I quite honestly cannot recall the several times I have picked up the book and read it, but I always found the scenes where Lizzie and Darcy take those walks and have their  tête-à-tête as my absolute favorites.

In this book, Baker allows us to move beyond those walks, she allows us to catch a glimpse of those poor gowns that Lizzie always managed to get shabby. She allows us to view the Bennett household in a new light,  a new perspective. One that moves beyond the glitz and glamour of those balls and bonnets, one which allows us to view the hard work and sweat put behind them, their up keeping and organizations. One where the nameless, faceless characters of Austen’ world evolve into people with identities and characters that charm and intrigue you, that make you know them and perhaps even adore them.  People who weren’t exactly crucial to the plot of Lizzie & Darcy’ romance, but who nonetheless can be attributed as the working force of the Bennet household, working almost round the clock that kept the place running like a well oiled machinery taking care of all those guests and balls, sewing, washing and mending those gowns, bonnets and shoes.

Baker’ protagonists are the household staff of the Bennett house – the housekeeper Mrs. Hill, her husband Mr.Hill  the butler,  the two housemaids – Sarah and Polly and the new mysterious footman  James Smith.

Prior to this book it hadn’t even occurred to me that there could be more to the Bennett household, and it was a pleasant and a refreshing surprise to view characters I have long known in a new light. Baker hasn’t just developed these new characters in her adaptation, but she has given new facets to the personalities of these long adored characters. like Mr. Bennett who isn’t just an exasperated husband and father putting up with his wife anymore,  but someone so much more, and not always perfect.

It will be a shame to spoil this novel so I wont be giving out any clues, nonetheless I can say this for sure the next time I pick up Pride & Prejudice it wont be just the same again. It may not go down well with all Austen lovers but I would recommend, that Longbourn be visited once more with a fresh outlook and fresh tale.

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