Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Longbourn

Longbourn entered my realm of knowledge a little at a time. The cover was one I was consistently noticing and after awhile I paused my skimming of magazines and websites to read the description of Longbourn. Another book of the Pride and Prejudice era? Something potentially riding on the coat tails of the successful show Downton Abbey? I can be quite catty about such things if I'm in a foul mood but usually it's unfounded. I'll move past my negative opinion and at least give the book a try. After all, I've read more than my share of books that were based on Pride and Prejudice -- call it a guilty pleasure. Longbourn was like this, in that the next time I saw the book I bought it and a short time later I was reading it.

Why the comparison to Downton Abbey? The book takes both the underworld of servanthood (much like that show) and combines it with Pride and Prejudice and begs to question: what did the servants of our beloved Bennets experience?

This book doesn't hold back nor does it make the more famous, beloved Bennet characters perfect as they are so often portrayed in Austen-esque novels (or movies, or tv shows, etc.). A household filled with women will without doubt bring on some unpleasant experiences. How did women handle periods when there weren't pads or tampons? Well, I found out.

The characters would get up before dawn just to prepare breakfast and the household for the homeowners. They would clean up after them, help them dress, do their laundry, prepare foods, run errands, and not really ever have an opportunity to do anything for themselves other than a little reading before bedtime.

I know very little about servants so the majority of this book was very humbling. Fiction or not, it's based on fact, and I felt horrible for complaining about doing my own laundry -- at least I have time to lay on the couch and watch TV, to cook for myself and not make fancy meals for someone else that I only have the left overs (or nothing at all). While I always loved Elizabeth and thought her to be so independent for running off and going through the mud with no care about clothes or what is expected of a woman, this book made me realize there were unspoken characters in the original book -- the servants who had to clean all the mud out of the clothes. 

But for all of this, secrecy and romance still happen and quick enough I was sucked into a very Austen-like love story. Mysterious men; the wrong love but then, possibly, the right love; and secrets within multiple families that are all tied together. I loved it, I was as tangled in the relationships of these characters as they were and quickly enough I was coming to the end of the book, stomping my foot, and demanding more.

I would urge anyone who enjoys Jane Austen -- especially Pride and Prejudice -- to pick up this book and give it a go. I completely understand what all the fuss was about and am adding to it. Go, go read it now!

Last Week's Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Next Week's Review: Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull

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