In keeping with the current fashion, author Jo Baker, has written a novel highlighting the men and women in service at Longbourn, the home of Jane Austen’s most beloved Bennet sisters. My snort of derision at this rather obvious bandwagon approach to my favorite novel was quickly followed by hitting the “Place a Hold” button on my library’s online card catalog. What can I say, I adore Jane Austen, and I’m a sucker for just about any adaptation, sequel or retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Skeptical, I set to reading.
Adjust your expectations before you read, our favorite players of Pride and Prejudice are merely shadowy non-essential characters in this novel. The heroine, Sarah, poor orphaned maidservant to the Bennet household was a hardsell as my new best friend. She was bright, inexperienced, dissatisfied and thrown quickly into a rather obvious love triangle by the author: girl dislikes boy, falls for an overly charming handsome chap, but later is ultimately won over by the devoted love and selfless acts of the first man for which she had such disdain. My cynicism made it difficult to continue past the shallow start in Volume I, but I trudged onward to Volume II which gained back little confidence. The book does expand a few supporting characters like the handsome and deceptive, George Wickham and his sordid hobbies. And Baker gives attention to the matriarch and patriarch of the Bennet household. Mrs. Bennet becomes better understood as do the tense undertones in her relationship with Mr. Bennet.
However, my loyalty was rewarded in Volume III when the story blooms to life with the missing backstories of Baker’s important players: Mr. Bennet’s hidden relationship with servant Mrs. Hill, their bastard son and his journey across war-torn Europe during Napoleon’s war. This unexpected delving into these new characters had me spellbound and made me grateful that I had forged ahead. A great work of langauge and historical detail, this book eventually blossomed into a great story with a few well-crafted characters whose lives were worth the telling.
Checkout the book here!
Interested in other Jane Austen-inspired books? Checkout a long list of options at http://www.janeausten.co.uk/online-magazine/media-reviews/sequels-and-spinoffs/.