Longbourn by Jo Baker

longbourn

Hooray, a book cover with a woman and it’s not her back/back of her head!

 

If you’re a fan of Pride and Prejudice, but feel like there’s not enough description of Elizabeth’s armpit hair, then this is the book for you!

Or perhaps you were left wondering exactly how soiled Lydia’s nightgown was after her tour of debauchery with Wickham?

Okay, seriously though, this is a good story, and Baker does a great job of weaving in the P&P details while keeping the focus squarely on the servants. I also liked the balance between showing how hard life was for the servant class while reminding us it wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops for the Bennets either – we get some backstory on Mrs. B that makes it difficult to laugh at her shallowness. Baker makes her human, not just a character or a foil for serious Elizabeth. She takes Mr. B down a few pegs, too, which I appreciate. The Keira Knightly movie version in particular is so sentimental about him but really, he’s as ambitious and concerned with appearances as his wife is, he just shows it differently.

HOWEVER.

As soon as footman Ptolemy Bingley was introduced, I was let down. I get it, he’s the Wickham to James’ Darcy and Sarah’s Elizabeth, but, did anyone believe for even one second that he stood a chance with Sarah? Several characters insist that “mulatto” and illegitimate Ptolemy would have no problem opening his own shop and marrying a white woman but that seems a little suspect to me. But the more annoying part was how he was made into the “bad” guy, just because there needed to be one, and then “redeemed” because the plot needed a push at the end.

The book works as a romance at first. I actually did that thing where you’re holding you’re breath and don’t realize it till you let it out when Sarah kissed Ptolemy (so I guess I can’t make fun of authors who make their characters do the same anymore,) and James and Sarah’s first kiss was pretty good too, reminiscent of Elizabeth and Darcy. By the end, though, the conclusion was so obvious and my annoyance with the Ptolemy thing was so great that I didn’t care.

I also didn’t care for James’ story of army life and desertion and imprisonment, interjected in the last quarter or so. I didn’t need that many pages to prove to me how hard done by he was or how troubled or how brooding. He’s seen stuff, man. Okay. And as this great review at Insatiable Booksluts points out, James likens his stint in the army with slavery and it’s like: no. Nice try though. Why no backstory on Ptolemy? Oh right, because he was never a real character, just a way to move the plot forward and introduce another social issue…

The writing was good, and some characters shined. I would have read a whole book about housekeeper Mrs. Hill and the early years at Longbourn. But there were just too many annoying characters and plot points here for me to recommend this book.

Books read: 10

 

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2 responses to “Longbourn by Jo Baker

  1. Pingback: Booyah, Bookstravaganza! | Reading in Bed·

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