“Charlotte’s kindness extended farther than Elizabeth had any conception of; its object was nothing else than to secure her from any return of Mr. Collins’s addresses, by engaging them towards herself. ….it led him to escape out of Longbourn House the next morning with admirable slyness, and hasten to Lucas Lodge to throw himself at her feet.” Pride and Prejudice, Ch 22
A telling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the servants Hall, Jo Baker’s Longbourn is an intriguing new take on a well known classic.
Longbourn is the home of the Bennett family and the setting of this novel. Mr and Mrs Hill, the housekeeper and butler, have helped to raise Sarah the maid who they took from the workhouse as a child. Another young servant comes to work at Longbourne and after a fraught beginning the two fall in love but it is only a matter of time before James’s dark past means he is forced to leave again.
Longbourn can be easily divided into two sections, first where the lives of those above stairs rule the plot and the second, longer section which becomes a story in it’s own right. Baker deals well with keeping the upstairs characters as readers of Pride and Prejudice would expect them to be. There are also new and interesting character developments occurring such as Wickham who appears to wish to ruin James and the other maid Polly simply for the pleasure of it.
However, other characters such as Mr Bennett and Mr Hill change beyond all recognition for what seems to be only to produce a twist or a shock in the reader.
Jo’s prose style feels natural and she easily takes you with her to the house and grounds. She quickly establishes a warm friendliness between characters, particularly Sarah, Mrs Hill and Polly which pulls the reader in as well. These women have formed their own family downstairs and are protectively fond of each other.
The relationship between Sarah and James is touching and beautifully mirrors the fraught relations between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy upstairs. Baker frequently illustrates that the temptations are just the same upstairs as down and that they are all as equally likely to succumb to them.
Longbourn is full of twists and turns, some of them fairly obvious and some more inventive but it does not disappoint. It is just as good a read whether you already know the characters or not. It compliments Austen’s work and it is also a well written novel in it’s own right.
On a personal note I am thrilled to see Jo getting such recognition and praise for her writing as she has been for Longbourne because she was one of my creative writing tutors at Lancaster University and a thoroughly nice and talented lady.
Synopsis: It’s a retelling of Jane Eyre, but from Mrs Fairfax’s perspective. She was the housekeeper in Charlotte Bronte’s original work, and provides another point of view on the events which many will be familiar with.
I liked it. Let me say that first, although it does take certain liberties, and unusual shifts from Jane Eyre. It’s clear that Stubbs is familiar…
Chapter Summary: Belle receives an audience with Snow and Charming to ask for aid in reaching Rumplestiltskin only to find out he is closer than she thinks. Second chapter of my fic for Rumbelle For The Win ( @rumbelleforthewin)
It had been several days since Belle had accompanied Grumpy back to the palace at Longbourne. She had been given a lavish set of chambers befitting her former station by some simpering peacock of a butler but she had yet to be given an audience with her hosts. She was grateful for the warm baths, the food and the exquisite gowns but she would have settled for a loaf of bread and a homespun dress if it meant she could be free of what appeared to be her new, if gilded, cage. She needed to leave. She needed to start on the long road back to the Dark Castle, back to Rumplestiltskin. For several weeks she had carried the most fearsome dread within her and she knew it had something to do with her sorcerer.
Her husband allowed her to talk on without interruption while the servants remained. But when they had withdrawn, he said to her: “Mrs. Bennet, before you take any or all of these houses for your son and daughter, let us come to a right understanding. Into one house in this neighborhood they shall never have admittance. I will not encourage the impudence of either, by receiving them at Longbourn.”
A long dispute followed this declaration; but Mr. Bennet was firm. It soon led to another; and Mrs. Bennet found, with amazement and horror, that her husband would not advance a guinea to buy clothes for his daughter. He protested that she should receive from him no mark of affection whatever on the occasion. Mrs. Bennet could hardly comprehend it. That his anger could be carried to such a point of inconceivable resentment as to refuse his daughter a privilege without which her marriage would scarcely seem valid, exceeded all she could believe possible. She was more alive to the disgrace which her want of new clothes must reflect on her daughter’s nuptials, than to any sense of shame at her eloping and living with Wickham a fortnight before they took place.