Longbourn by Jo Baker
Published by: Vintage (October 8, 2013)
Genre: Romance, literary. retelling. historical
Length: 354 pages
My Rating:★★★★★A sign that you're reading a good book is when you stay up way to late to finish because you won't rest easy until you do. Then, even more so, when you wake next morning too early thinking about it.
Longbourn was that book for me; it caught my eye now again on the internet. ABeautiful Mess did it as part of their book club and it came across my Goodreads account a couple of times. I absolutely adore Pride and Prejudice, but every time I considered picking up a spin-off novel the bad reviews have shied me away from the idea and I choose instead to watch the 2005 movie instead. (Never when my husband's home, though. I always end up crying at weird parts like at the Bingley ball when Darcy starts following Elizabeth. Turn around! Be in love already!) In any event, I heard such great things about Longbourn and decided it was time I gave it a try.
General consensus, and this was true for me as well, is that the story takes some time to get into.
The writing is extremely well done and the imagery paints a vivid picture of the labor it takes to run a home in Britain in the 1800's but the first look at Sarah, the main character, wasn't a pretty one. One of the four workers for the Bennet family, Sarah a girl of sixteen is clearly not happy with her situation.
In all honesty, I wouldn't have liked Sarah if I had met her in real life. Her character is not one I gravitate towards in novels and normally her bitter attitude (no matter how justified) would have turned me off from the story. And for a time, it did. I caught up on Wolverine and the X-men and started on the Uncanny X-Force when I got to a point where I needed to read something without pictures.
The writing, the build up of plot, the very human interactions and James' character pulled me through until Sarah's character grew a bit. The subtlety of the shifts in the story were true to the passage of time and the slow, but noticeable growth in all the characters gave this story more depth and an interesting angle. Jo Baker wrote this story in such a way that by the end of it you wanted the happiness of these characters like you want the happiness of friends in your own life.
The slow burn start of this novel and then the mid-story twist at such a crucial moment is reminiscent of Rebecca, another book I hated until I loved, and is a thing very few writings I've read can do so seamlessly as is done in this story.
If you like love stories, period pieces, or Jane Austen in general read this book; what a great homage to Austen by not tampering with her timeless story but showing a different side of it.