Author: Jo Baker
Originally Published: October 8, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Best Feature: A perfect pairing to “Pride & Prejudice” without overstepping its bounds or stepping on Jane Austen’s toes.
Worst Feature: The ending might leave you feeling unsatisfied, but perhaps that’s Baker’s way of leaving you wanting more of her novels in the future.
When I first found out that there was yet another “add-on” novel to “Pride & Prejudice”, I didn’t think much of it. However, the more I heard about “Longbourn”, the more interested I was. Rather than a continuation of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s love story, like “Mr. Darcy’s Daughters” or “Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife”, Baker manages to weave a new love story within the temporal and physical framework of Elizabeth and Darcy’s love story. The balance of descriptive language and pivotal dialogue is reminiscent of Austen herself, without trying to overshadow the inspiration for Baker’s story. The elevated language and vocabulary lend a sophistication to the novel despite its simple characters. Overall, the novel was exciting and held my interest.
The alternative perspective on “Pride & Prejudice” gave some new insights into Elizabeth and the Bennet family’s true character. Jane Austen is by far my favorite author of all time (yes it’s true, I dislike the Bronte Sisters– sorry), and often when people try to imitate her I find it more irritating than satisfying. However, if you’re either a fan of the Georgian era and Jane Austen, or the upstairs-downstairs drama of Downton Abbey, I recommend this book for a light but sophisticated read.
What I felt the downside to the novel was that it felt unfinished. I’m not sure Baker ran out of inspiration as she extended beyond the scope of “Pride & Prejudice”, or if she felt she should emulate her muse in ending the story at what seemed like too soon a moment. My other concern was that the major flashback scene seemed to come at the wrong point in the novel. It left me feeling like there was no real climax to the story, which may have also contributed to story feeling incomplete.
I hope you give “Longbourn” a chance to whisk its way into your literary life, or perhaps reserve a future spot in your book club. Overall, I think it’s one of the only shining examples of Austen “add-on” literature, and has earned a spot on my bookshelf (or rather, my Kindle and electronic bookshelf).
Until next time,
|The Creative Physician|