Longbourn

LongbournYou guys, this month had me worried. During the first two-thirds of this past month I hardly touched this book. We were nearing the launch of our latest e-course (Blog Life), and as deadlines go, it always seems to get crazy at the very end. So, I felt way behind in reading this month's selection. I was really bummed and feeling like I was probably going to have to admit that this month I didn't finish the book in time. I'm sure that will happen some month this year, but still. 

I am happy to report I finished! Trey and I had a family wedding this past weekend and found ourselves on multiple flights headed to California. I can be a fast reader if I have no distractions (I'm super distract-able). So, I flew through the second half of this book. (Pun!)

At first I was worried I had picked a stinker for us this month. I just didn't get into the story at first. But, once the characters were established and the story really started, I totally got hooked! I'm not sure I loved this book as much as Pride and Prejudice, but I sure did enjoy it. I am a sucker for love stories, and although the ending might not be as happy as Elizabeth Bennet's turned out to be (in some ways), I thought it was very fitting. 

Warning: If you're not done reading yet I recommend you hold off on the following discussion since there will be SPOILERS!

I'd love to hear what you thought of this month's book. You can comment on the following discussion points. Feel free to reference the number if you like. Or you are welcome to bring up new discussion points or ideas.

1. Did you feel the book felt true to the original Pride and Prejudice story while still (obviously) creating its own narrative and world based on the household staff? It's been a long time since I read the original story, so I felt like I was re-remembering everything as it unfolded from this new point of view. I really ended up LOVING this. It almost felt like I got to reread an old favorite book. Like, wouldn't it be fun to reread all the Harry Potter books from new points of view (like from the Hogwarts staff or something)?

2. So much about the era and world of this book can be totally infuriating. Obviously, women's rights was on an entirely different planet than my world today as well as the division of classes and depiction of slaves. It was also so hard to read the chapters that showed us James's life before he joined the Longbourn staff. Because he was born to the wrong mother and in the wrong social situation he was destined for a difficult and unfair life, including being wrongfully accused of desertion. What do you think of the depiction of the classes in this tale? 

3. Were you surprised by the revelation that James was the son of Mrs. Hill and Mr. Bennet? I was! For me, this completely changed how I viewed Mrs. Hill and Mr. Bennet's relationship and interactions throughout the rest of the book. And when you see them at the end of their lives together, I was surprised by Mrs. Hill's conclusion, that maybe she wouldn't have wished for anything different (like to have married Mr. Bennet and raised James instead of how it turned out) since at the end they would have ended up in a similar position anyway, she taking care of him as he aged. Seems a strange conclusion to me. What do you think of their relationship? Of Mr. Bennet's actions toward her and his son?

Don't forget in May we'll be reading The Goldfinch, so pick up (or download) your copy if you haven't already. Happy reading! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photo by: Emma Chapman. Photo edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • Oh my goodness, I hadn’t noticed that you’d picked this as this month’s read, but I happen to have finished this just last week! I’ll wait til others weigh in to discuss it further, but I did really enjoy it. It made me see Pride and Prejudice in a whole new light — all the stuff that happens downstairs, or the tidbits about slavery. I wasn’t particularly surprised when Mr Bennet and Mrs Hill’s relationship came to light — it almost seemed like there was a bit of foreshadowing, although I could be just imagining it now.

  • Yes, Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Hill’s past seemed like a logical leap once it comes to light in the book. I must say, it still took me off guard. You’d think I’d learn to look for things like this while reading but I often just blow right by them. 🙂

    -Emma

  • I really liked Longbourn because of Baker’s writing style and ability to seamlessly elaborate on the original story. Showing us the servants’ perspective allowed us to see more depth in each of the main P&P characters. Wickham is a bit more evil, Mr Bennett really is an absentee father, and you sympathize with Mrs. Bennett. It felt like Baker was just divulging what Austen wasn’t able to, in good company.

    My review: http://lovelyliterature.com/2014/01/18/review-longbourn/

  • Goldfinch is downloaded and ready on my Kindle 🙂 I’ve been looking forward to reading it for so long, all the reviews I’ve read of it have been absolutely glowing! Looking forward to discussing it, haven’t read Longbourn so have nothing to contribute but Harry Potter from different perspectives would be amazing! J.K needs to get on it! xxx
    La Lingua : Food, Life, Love, Travel, Friends, Italy

  • I felt the same way about this book. It took a while for me to like it but in the end the reading went by too fast and I loved it. I wish it continued a bit at Longbourn again. I am going to read Pride and Prejudice again soon.

  • I could not agree more. I bet it would be scary to write a novel based on such beloved and well known character. I would be WAY too intimidated to try that (let alone write a novel for others to read, actually).

    🙂

    -Emma

  • I’m so excited for Goldfinch too! I’ve been wanting to do it for the club all year but I was trying to wait a bit since I know so many like to utilize the library and popular new-ish books tend to have long holds.

    Anyway, glad you’re excited too. 🙂

    -Emma

  • I wouldn’t have thought that they had an affair (or were/had been in love, for that matter), but there was this one scene were Sarah heard Hill shouting at Mr Bennet – something which is totally taboo for a servant, so I was waiting for a scene which explained why that happened and why Mr Bennet allowed it to happen.

  • I didn’t love this book, but I enjoyed it. I was happy that it had a happy ending. Throughout the book I was slightly worried that Sarah would lose James forever. If that would have happened, it would have been totally realistic since people in their position had little choice or say in their lives.
    I did love the “other perspective” component to this book and yes, I would love to read all of my favorites from different viewpoints!

  • Thanks for your review! It’s always so interesting to see someone else’s point of view. It’s part of my job to review other people’s writing. And while none of the texts I provide feedback about are fiction, I find it increasingly difficult to see the actions of characters in a book independently from the book’s author. I always think “What could the author have done better?”, “What are his/her limitations?”, “Did she do her research?”. Therefore I love that, particularly with the previous books, you helped me see the characters “behind” the book (kind of like seeing the trees in the forest).

    Anyway, my comments will, at least this time, be rather from the perspective of someone reviewing the author.

    Throughout the book I was wondering whether it accurately portrayed the morals and behaviour of Georgian servants. Imagining the thoughts and desires of people from the past can be so difficult. One the one hand, they look so prim and stiff in their pictures, yet, on the other hand, we have letters which show how emotional and dreamy they could be. And I particularly know very little about their morals and ambitions.

    So, having said all that: Mr Hill is revealed to be homosexual and eventually dies in the arms of his lover. The story tells that Hill (I keep thinking of her just as “Hill”, the way she is called in P+P) carries him back to their marital bed with the help of his lover and that they even have to put his breeches back on. I was wondering whether a woman like Hill would really have been this tolerant. Maybe it’s our own modern thinking that the “good” characters in a novel have to be tolerant. Also: wouldn’t there have been more hostility towards slave-born and dark-skinned Tol?

    I also wondered whether love would have been this highly valued. In P+P, Lizzy and Charlotte Lucas often discuss that marrying for love was just one option (and surely not just in their world). So would someone like Sarah have left a secure job with the Darcy’s just to run after a man she couldn’t even be sure to find? After all, Darcy himself begs her to stay and she really offends both Darcy and Lizzy by leaving thus risking her reputation. The whole idea of leaving a boring job (and life) behind in order to make a new start and/or do something really risky just seems like a very modern idea to me (and worlds apart from anything a Georgian housemaid would ever consider doing). What actually puzzled me the most was that she wouldn’t admit to Darcy and Lizzy why she was leaving. Why, if she was brave enough to take this step, was she not brave enough to say that she was doing it for love? (She could have cheated a little and called herself engaged.) After all Darcy might have helped her and it might at least have somewhat restored her reputation. What do you think?

  • I actually wrote a review on this! I felt that this novel was a story in its own right, I didn’t feel too much of a connection with P&P which is strange – but I think it’s because the writing style and atmosphere is so different to Jane Austen.

    I feel a bit sad about Mr Bennett being portrayed as an absentee father; he seemed unloving and unkind in this novel and as he’s my favourite character in the book, it really did shock me to see him disregard his own blood so easily.

    Saskia / girlinbrogues.com

  • I’ll have to pick-up this book now that school’s winding down for the semester! I’ve been dying to read The Gold Finch, so I’m happy that that’s this months selection 🙂

  • I think that Longbourn gave an interesting perspective to Pride and Prejudice. Like how in the original novel the Bennets were almost seen as poor themselves but from the servants point of view they were rich and have an easy life.
    Some parts of the novel made me dislike characters that I lived my whole life. Like Mr Bennett for his indiscretions and even Elizabeth at times, perhaps because she is ‘the boss’ in this situation.
    I think that it was a worthwhile read but the ending was a little rushed and summarised in my opinion. I don’t think it holds a candle to Pride and Prejudice but this was always going to be an obstacle for Baker.
    Really looking forward to reading The Goldfinch. I have loved Donna Tartt’s writing for many years and hope this is good as her previous work.

  • I loved this book! I’ve been following the book club as I became stuck in a rut with my book choices but must say I love reading classic novels so to read a new book related to a classic was a perfect choice for me!

    I got into the book really quickly and loved the relationships between the characters and how new things came to light as the story unfolded. I’m also a sucker for a love story and enjoyed how everything was rounded up at the end and loved the final part where they arrive back at Longbourn. I felt I wanted to know more about what happened to Ptolemy and what he went on to do, whether he was to get the life he longed for.

    I have heard that there is a possibility of a film coming out for this book, hopefully this is true!

    Thanks for the variety of your book choices! really enjoying them! On to The Goldfinch!!

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    I really enjoyed this book – just finished it a couple of weeks ago. What I really liked about it was the fact that Pride and Prejudice is always celebrated as an early novel from a woman’s point of view, but that this book just showed how pointless and almost silly the lives of people like the Bennetts were. This went a step beyond being a woman’s novel to being the voice of the servants and those who are just completely ignored in history. When you hear about Jamie’s life you realise that it was people like him he really experienced all the harsh realities of that time. And I found it really shocking how Sarah had to put aside her feelings towards Jamie and his concern that he was missing to be sympathetic to the ridiculous dramas that the Bennett girls were going through. Really recommend it.

  • I felt the same way in the early part of the book and as I went along I was really getting into the characters and the story. I was somewhat surprised about Mrs. Hill and Mr. Bennett was James parents…but early on when he first came to Longbourn and Mrs. Hill was privately talking to Mr. Bennett about him I suspected something along those lines. Not surprising that they hid the fact that it was his son…so sad though. I felt myself through out the book looking for the connections and events with Pride and Prejudice. I was very surprised and how selfish Elizabeth seemed when Sarah wanted to leave. From P & P I did not get that from her character. I was very happy with the ending, knowing that James and Sarah were together and had a baby…I really enjoyed this book.

    I am already 1/4 the way into Goldfinch!!! Really love this book club…great selections.

  • I LOVED THIS BOOK. Please more like this! I am still uncomfortable about how lydia HAD to marry because it was the “right” thing to do. (I would love a book about Lydia’s future in her marriage!) I feel so much for Mrs.Hill. She went through so much I would have loved an alternate universe where she married Mr.Bennet. oh well. I was shocked though I didn’t see it coming. I’m very happy with the ending =) Sara and James had a baby! I was soooo happy.

  • I was a little worried that Sarah would lose James too. It almost seemed fitting, to contrast with the Bennett sister’s and their “happily ever afters.” I was really thankful it didn’t end up that way too.

    -Emma

  • I have done no research into this era outside of my enjoyment in reading a few novels that revolve around this time. So… this is an uneducated opinion. 🙂

    I guess when Mr. Hill turned out to be a homosexual it sort of explained he and Mrs. Hill’s relationship more. My thought is perhaps Mrs. Hill was just happy to have a man who would choose to marry her (a woman who’d had another man’s child) and thus kind of restore her within that society.

    I think I more of less agree with your sentiment’s with regard to Sarah leaving her secure job with the Darcy household. When she and James begin their physical relationship together she explains that she doesn’t worry as much about acting in this way without being married since she is just a servant and her reputation matters somewhat less than high society ladies, like the Bennett’s. Perhaps she felt similar when she decided to quiet. Perhaps her low role within her world allowed her a bit more freedom than if she had been in a higher one.

    -Emma

  • Mr. Bennett is an overall disappointing character. He does go to great lengths to try and help his daughter, Lydia. But then fails to help his son. Good and bad. Complicated. As most people are, I suppose.

    -Emma

  • 1-Did you feel the book felt true to the original Pride and Prejudice story while still (obviously) creating its own narrative and world based on the household staff?

    I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice ( I know.. I know…) never been a classic novel fan. Although now after reading Longbourn I will definately do so. This novel gave great insight into the lives of the family, especially of the girls.

    2-What do you think of the depiction of the classes in this tale?
    Its very clear the distinction between classes and what I found intesresting within the servants there is also a status of class and of importance that Baker clearly made sure to potray. Distinction of cours between footman, housekeeper and maids.
    Discussing James life before longbourn, I feel the chapters were too long, I would have preferred it to be shorter as I was finding it tedious.

    3- The relationship between Mrs Hill and Mr Bennet was a shock for me, I never suspected that James was her son, this was a good twist in the book.
    I felt that perhaps Mrs Bennett probably knew or suspected about this relationship as I remember she saying to Mrs Hill that “Mr Bennett always listens to you”. I believed that Mr Bennet was selfish and didn’t do much to help Mrs Hill pain to find James when he left Longbourn. I hope he had done more.

    Overall I enjoyed the book it was very nice written and was entertainig.
    Characters were very well potrayed, especially Sarah and James.
    Thanks for the choice.
    Already started reading The Goldfinch which is interesting!

  • I wasn’t totally crazy about this book, to be honest. I felt it was fairly simplistic and predictable, especially when compared to Pride & Prejudice. The characters just seemed so surface-level and acting far more modern than I think they really would have been for the time. I just think the tone didn’t match Pride & Prejudice at all. It also made the Bennets seem much more unlikeable. It’s been a while since I read P&P, so maybe I’m remembering it wrong, though. It just kind of felt like above-average fan-fiction to me. Looking forward to Goldfinch!

  • I had kind of difficult time getting into the story, but finally I was pulled in and fell in love with the characters. I also learned so much about what it must’ve been like for the servents work life. When Sarah had to wash the weekly laundry, I just cringed at how awful their works conditions were and they were paid practically nothing. It made me so thankful to be a modern woman.

  • I haven’t read the book, but after reading these comments, I don’t think i want to. I don’t particularly like books that are written now but are about historical events. Modern authors have such a different perspective – no matter how hard they try to be historically accurate, it won’t be.

  • I didn’t read the book, but it’s one I’m putting on my list!
    I only glanced at the discussion points, but I just wanted to put it out there that your idea of new points of view for the Harry Potter books would be the best thing ever! Totally cool idea.

  • I haven’t read this book yet and actually didn’t know it existed until I saw your post! I’m a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice so I will definitely put this on my reading list. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Nikki
    nikkibydesign.blogspot.com

  • I enjoyed getting a different look at the characters in “Pride and Prejudice”. I also thought it was an interesting twist that James was the bastard child of Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Hill.

    I thought the parts with Elizabeth after marrying Darcy odd. She seemed to completely change as a character, and she didn’t seem as happy as in the original book. In this book, she seemed constantly worried about having to live up to having a lot of money now. She also worried about pleasing Darcy all the time, which doesn’t sound like the strong, opinionated, confident woman that Darcy fell in love with.

  • I don’t know if you’re into fantasy books (you did mention Harry Potter), but I just started reading “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss and thought I’d recommend it to you. I don’t know if it’d necessarily work for the book club because the book is HUGE (and has an even bigger sequel).

    I also like Jasper Fforde’s books, which could work for the book club. He wrote this detective series called the “Thursday Next” series. Thursday Next is a book detective – she has the unexplainable power of being able to jump into books and police them from within. Kind of similar to how Baker gives us a different look into “Pride and Prejudice”, Fforde gives us different looks into several classic books, like “Great Expectations” and “Jane Eyre”. 🙂 I’ve read almost all of his books.

  • I haven’t read Pride and Prejudice but now I will. The first 2 parts of the book I really enjoyed. I liked the gritty descriptions of how the servants hands were affected by their work and was pleased that the author didn’t try to wash over the realities of their work.

    In regards to question 3 I agree I think the revelation of James being the some of Mrs Hill and Mr Bennet was a bit odd. It just didn’t sit well I thought. Not seeming like a true conclusion. I thought that for the time the book was set that although today Mr Bennet seems arrogant back then his letting Mrs Hill work for him was a huge deal, acknowledging that he owed her something. I don’t really have any conclusions regarding the relationship between Mrs Hill and Mr Bennet, it confused me a little. I felt that the book was able to stand on it’s own without it.

    Also the time spent describing James’ prior life was very slow for me, i like a bit of mystery to some characters, and I felt that this was un-needed info.

    This is not to say I didn’t enjoy the book as I did, but I didn’t love it. It was an easy read though which was good.

  • It also took me a while to really get interested in this story. As I did I began to enjoy it but then things seemed to take a turn and left me mostly irritated and upset. While I appreciated viewing the pride and prejudice story from a different angle I felt that Baker abused the characters a bit and just made use of the story line for her own purposes. I felt deeply disappointed by the way she portrayed Mr Bennett and and the choices he made, it was so in contrast to how Austen actually wrote him. The same goes for Mr Darcy in Sarah’s final interaction with him and Lizzy. They came across as very cold and uncaring which was exactly what Austen showed that they weren’t.

    The war scenes came as quite a shock too and the build up to it in no way prepared you for the harsh and vulgar world you were about to be transported to. One page you were listening to conversations about cake in the kitchen and the next you were privy to the very disturbing realities of war. This really threw me off as it also seemed like she was taking a dig at the Bennett’s for not knowing what was really happening in the world. The whole tone of it was so disruptive to the story. Perhaps this was the point Baker was trying to make, but it felt a little forced to me.

    I also felt that she was trying to make too much of a point about the hardships of the staff and their unpleasant duties, as if to say that no one ever gave them any thought. We do of course give thought to the staff, but it doesn’t mean that while reading a love story I also want to know about the disposal of faeces and the cleaning of menstrual blood!

    So I am sorry to be writing such a negative review but I guess this is what book clubs are about, reading what others are thinking and responding with your own thoughts!

  • I really enjoyed this book. Like you it took me a while to get into it but within a few chapters I was dying to find out what happened with Sarah and James. I enjoyed the style of writing, with the author giving little clues as to what what you might discover by the end of (the argument between Mrs Hill and Mr Bennett and James’ fear of the militia)

    I also questioned if Sarah leaving a good job was realistic but it is important to remember that servants were still people and make don’t always make rational decisions.

    I struggled reading some of the passages regarding the treatment of the servants (I think its in the first chapter that she describes laundry day and the bleeding chilblains Sarah suffered), women in general and illegitimate birth. I feel very lucky to have born in the 20th Century!!

    I’ve had the Goldfinch on my Kindle since January but haven’t managed to read it yet, delighted it’s your May choice!

  • I picked up this book without having previously read Pride & Prejudice, and I was a little worried that my minimal P & P knowledge would affect my reading experience of Longbourne. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed reading Longbourne, and didn’t find it hard to follow the story at all. I just thought I’d put that out there for anyone in the same boat as me. Also, if you like Downton Abbey, you’ll probably enjoy this book!

    James being the illegitimate son of Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Bennett came as a complete surprise to me. In fact, when Mrs. Hill first refers to James as her son, I didn’t take her literally! I do question the reality of their arrangement though – could the relationship between Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Bennett really have been kept a secret over so many years? Did James have any inkling about his family roots? Did anyone else suspect?

    As hard as the class depictions were to read sometimes (some of the descriptions of the housemaids’ work had me gagging), the day to day struggles of the servants were one of the things that kept the book compelling.

  • I loved this! Just finished listening to the audiobook (which was kind of lovely as it was read by an English woman.) but I’m the kind of person who loves almost every book I read. It did take a while to get into it, but towards the end I was really hooked.

    I sort of understand Mrs. Hills opinion at the end… The feeling that once everything’s said and done, it seems like there’s no other way it could have gone and no other place you would have ended up. I do wish there had been a little bit more about Sarah and James’s relationship after she found him—surely it would have been hard to revert to their earlier way with each other?

    I enjoyed how the plot paralleled with P&P although I was a bit sad that Elizabeth didn’t really seem happy in her marriage… It seemed like she got more timid after marrying. And I was also surprised that Sarah didn’t tell Elizabeth the truth about why she was leaving. (Although I suppose all her upbringing tells her that servant problems aren’t worth bothering her mistress with. So it is, begrudgingly, believable.)

    Thanks for the introduction to this book!

  • I really enjoyed the beautiful and sometimes poetic writing in this book as much as the characters. The story also made me think, “what did the Bennet girls do with their time?” Compared to all the work Sarah did the Bennet girls seemed very sedintary. It made me love Charlotte Lucas’ character, because she helped in her family’s kitchen and actually had skills to recommend her to her future husband.

    I also felt Sarah’s tediousness as I read about her work in the Darcy’s household. After being responsible for so much to only be allowed to sit in the same room everyday and sew. It was painful to read.

    I enjoyed this book. As soon as I finished it I started rereading P & P.

  • I first read P&P at 13 and have read it (and studied it) many times since then, each time noticing something new, and still finding myself suspending belief that Lizzie and Darcy will get together. That is the genius of Austen’s writing – she really pulls you into her created worlds.

    My feeling on reading Longbourn is that Jo Baker has had a very similar relationship with P&P that I, and many thousands of other readers, have. Her writing is often playful and even a little irreverent to P&P, and in particular to the characters of the Bennet household, in a way that I think Austen would have found amusing. I loved that she used actual P&P dialogue here and there in her own narrative and that much of her (quite dramatic) story was told with a lightness of touch quite similar to Austen’s.

    What I most enjoyed about Longbourn was how it seemingly sits alongside P&P as a historical romance whilst, at the same time, being in direct juxtaposition to P&P in genre given its VERY gritty realism. Baker throws politeness right out of the window in her style of storytelling and shows us the Miss Bennets’ dirty laundry in a very literal way, alongside the dirty laundry of Mr Bennet and Mr and Mrs Hill in a not so literal way. I guess you could argue that we should expect the servants’ world to be more tawdry generally than that of their ‘betters’, but Baker doesn’t just look at the servants that way, does she? She looks at everyone with those same eyes – even to the extent of taking Austen’s arch villain Wickham from naughty and irreverent young man gambling with the virtue of young ladies to a paedophile! I like to think this is more about Jo Baker’s smartness as an Austen reader and critic who has spent a lot of time thinking about the reality of life for everyone in that world that Austen would never have been able to directly / realistically depict at the time she was writing. It is as if she has tried to give Austen a modern voice to speak honestly about her world, and I applaud her for that, even though I think she may have gone a little far with her references to modern life – I felt as if I was being hit over the head with it at times: “look – there were homosexual people in Georgian times” felt a bit patronising.

    I definitely didn’t enjoy reading the section with James at war – in fact I speed read many of the pages. I felt bad about this as I can imagine how much time and effort Baker invested in the research and writing of it, but I simply found it dull and irritating – I wanted to get back to the main story and not sit through a lecture on the horror of war – which is not, of course, to denigrate the actual experience of many millions of people who have suffered and died in wars…

    All in all, I did enjoy the book, but I question how much a non P&P lover would – the story isn’t hugely believable or entertaining in and of itself. This was the first book of Jo Baker’s that I have read and I will definitely read something else of hers as the writing was good. What I fervently hope is that Longbourn will inspire those of its readers who haven’t read P&P to do so as soon as possible – it is a wonderful novel of its time! 🙂

  • I was slow to liking this book as well. When I first started I was like oh dear this book could be so boring,but like others have said once the characters were more established I got into. I loved James and Sarah. At first when she was liking Ptolemy I was like no..she’s supposed to like James,but it worked out in the end. I would have hated this book had they not ended up together. I like happy endings.

  • I enjoyed the modernity of the story. It wasn’t afraid to get nitty gritty in ways Jane herself may have avoided. I loved that we saw a side of Mr. Bennett that was new, I think it gave him more depth honestly, and I enjoyed viewing his relationship with Mrs. Bennett in a different light. Honestly after the sexual tension between Sarah and James became mutual love I *did * lose a bit of interest, but mostly because my favorite parts of stories is the longing: the wanting and not having and the brilliant tension it creates. But yes, it was a great pick!

  • Hello Emma,
    I have been reading this blog for sooo many years. Followed through the old shops you gals have had, the clothing design, weddings houses etc. I have drawn so much inspiration from your posts, houses, diys, yet have never commented. When you mentioned that you were starting a book club I was so stoked. My book club disbanded 2 years ago due to everyone being busy and having children to care for, so I loved the idea of reading your posts and trying to keep up 🙂 I had been wanting to read the fault in our stars for a year, and was stoked to follow that one.
    Longbourn was a book I had never heard of before which I liked – delving into something completely unknown, apart from the fact that I adore and am well-read in Austen. I really enjoyed Longbourn, and devoured it pretty quickly. I was so shocked by the Hill and Mr Bennet revelation. Like you, there were hints I should have picked up on ie. Hill being permitted to argue with him, but I just assumed Hill didn’t want James there. The revelation was stunning, and made so much sense in the book. For Baker to be able to convince an audience who are so attached to the peripheral characters, that her new additional story line was congruent with P & P, and that we would believe the new level she takes the story to, despite being written in a completely different style – that is an achievement I think. Thanks for choosing this book.

    Additionally, I had also been wanting to read The Goldfinch since Feb, but didn’t want to read 760 pages if I didn’t have anyone to talk it over with… yeeha you solved that problem for me. I am halfway through, and have no idea where the story will lead to. Thanks so much for making a ABM Book club. – And know that there must be many silent readers who like me, although not registered followers, check you guys out almost daily and feast on your creativity and inspiration. THANKS!! 🙂

  • I really enjoyed this book. I loved P+P, so reading about the servants and how the underprivileged lived was a really good insight into this era, which I have to say I know very little of. It was also nice to read a book that doesn’t just focus on the nicey nice positive things of proposal and happily ever afters (even thought this did have one!). I was a bit surprised about Mrs Hill and Mr Bennett but I could see it coming from how she reacted when she heard that he was coming that there was something amiss. Sarah I found to be extremely child like in her actions towards needing attention which I thought was a bit annoying the way she handled it all, but I loved how her character grew to be this strong minded woman by the end.

  • I think when talking about “tolerance” in the past, it is easy to forget that what we see as important social issues today did not carry the same weight 200 years ago. This is especially true because our view of the past tends to be colored by the upper classes, whose lives were better documented. Generally, what we now call homosexuality was frowned upon, but was often something of an ill-kept secret that was, in fact, tolerated if not accepted. Sex and love among the lower economic classes, too, was generally more open than we might imagine, since marriage wasn’t necessarily based on family ties and inheritances (for the upper classes, a woman’s virginity was considered more important because a man must be sure that his heirs are actually “his”). Sarah even notes in the context of the novel that many women were already pregnant when they married. Just a few historical notes from a labor and gender historian!

  • I quite enjoyed this book and have already recommended it to a couple of friends. Although it has been a LONG time since I read Pride and Prejudice, I liked the re-introduction to the characters from a different point of view. In reading the comments thus far, I have been REALLY surprised at the number of people who didn’t see it coming that James was the son of Mrs. Hill and Mr. Bennett. I won’t pretend to have predicted the EXACT details of the history between this characters, but from the minute I read the section where Mrs. Hill was yelling and Mr. Bennett over having hired James, and then when she treated him so nicely and gave him the whole pie she had made for supper that day, I began to suspect that he was her child.

    On the other hand, I, too, was disappointed with the scene where Sarah left her position with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I would have liked it much better if she had at least told them why she was going. Although I know this might have been frowned upon (for a servant to bother her mistress with her own problems), I feel like Elizabeth’s character would have responded positively and would have wanted to help. i also would have liked if, once Sarah had found James, they could have returned to work for Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. It would have been a much easier life for them, and I’m sure that Mr. Bennett or Mr. Darcy could have used their influence to clear James’ name.

    As a final note, I agree with those who felt the section about James’ life at war was a bit long. Although I was happy to learn what had happened to him, I felt it was drawn on a bit too long (a chapter or two would have sufficed). I was anxious to get back to the main story and find out if Sarah and James would have their happily ever after.