As an avid aficionado of Austen, I have read many “continuation” novels. Some have been good. Some have been fun. NONE has been as good as the original Jane Austen books. However, I am always intrigued when someone has the audacity to base a book on her characters. When I heard about Jo Baker’s Longbourn, a servants edition of Pride and Prejudice, I felt a burning need to read it. So burning a need that I actually purchased the Kindle edition because my library did not have a copy and my local bookstore closed permanently.
It’s the very first Kindle book I paid actual money for, and I am not happy with it. In fact, I wish I could get it out of my cloud. I hated it. I cannot believe that Jo Baker is a fan of Jane Austen. I understand that it is supposed to be about the servants and that their lives were not easy, but some her plot lines did not mesh very well with the things I have read in Pride and Prejudice, or my imaginings of the story.
If you have the temerity to use Austen’s characters and settings you should confine yourself to the refinement and gentility of her language and writings. Longbourn has a promiscuous maid, an illegitimate son of Mr. Bennet’s, an elderly homosexual butler who has a heart attack in the throes of illicit passion out in the woods with his lover. At least Jo Baker didn’t write this actual scene! She let the lover tell the housekeeper. In the third section of the book there is quite a bit of foul language of the worst sort.
I just hope that the next time I read Pride and Prejudice that this book Longbourn doesn’t poison my enjoyment. It had language and sex scenes. It’s been a few weeks since I actually read it so I don’t remember if the sex scenes were explicit or not. Now to see if there is a way to get it out of my cloud!
Here is a blog post with an interview with the author. It was interesting, but I still don’t like the book: Longbourn: A Novel, Virtual Book Launch Party with Author Jo Baker & Giveaway! (austenprose.com)