So, why do I feel this way? Because it's just so damn rare that I really love a book. And I don't hate them all that often, either. I've even basically stopped posting my reviews on Amazon (which I used to do religiously) because my opinions end up being so vague. Like, should I just not bother writing reviews for any book that I would give a 2.5, 3, or 3.5 star rating? I don't know. And yet here I am again with an average-ish review of Longbourn by Jo Baker.
I've read several of the Pride & Prejudice 'sequels'. Yes, it's all fanfiction in a way. Some of it was good and some of it was very, very bad. Longbourn, as P&P type stories go, is neither. Essentially, this story could have been decent on its own; it didn't really need to be set in the P&P 'universe'. But it was, and for a P&P lover that did help bump it up a notch. It is definitely an original take on things, which also led to my enjoying it a bit more than I maybe would have otherwise.
While at times a bit slow, I did generally enjoy reading Longbourn. Unfortunately, it had several issues with which I couldn't come to terms. The first involves the main character's love interests - I won't go into detail because I don't want to spoil the entire main plot line, but suffice it to say that Sarah's love interests and behavior regarding them are pretty questionable for the time period in which the novel was set.
Next - and I noted that several reviews on Amazon mentioned this same thing - there is a portion of the novel that deals with English soldiers fighting in Spain that, while well written, feels out of place and drawn out. And finally, as I already [briefly] mentioned, the fact that Longbourn was set within the Pride & Prejudice storyline was pretty much unnecessary. It would have made more sense if we'd seen more of that side of the story (albeit from the servants' point of view, of course), but as it was written it just seems like more of a selling point for the novel than an imperative part of the whole story portrayed in this book.
With a few changes, Longbourn definitely could have stood on its own two feet; as I said, it was a generally enjoyable read. If you're a huge P&P fan, I suppose I would say to give it a go and see what you think. 3/5 stars.
"Each day's work trickled over into the next, and nothing was ever finished, so you could never say, Look, that's it, the day's labour is over and done. Work just lingered and festered and lay in wait, to make you slip up in the morning."
"Now that would be a thing indeed, to live like that. To be there and gone and never staying anywhere a moment longer than you wanted..."
"...having been worn threadbare by all those pregnancies and torn by all those confinements, with all those lost teeth and all that shed blood and a loose belly now to lug around with her like a sack; there must be some relief for Mrs. Bennet, mustn't there, to know that it was all over now, and she would not be obliged to endure it all again?'
"There had been times, in the past years, when he had felt more acutely alive. When circumstances had conspired to keep him painfully alert, on his toes, on the qui vive, thinking three steps ahead. But that night, as he drove the carriage back from Meryton, the chill air on his face, the full moon low on the horizon and the call of a curlew across the high fields, he was happy not to think, and just to be."
"No notion of the strangeness of women, of how you could love and think yourself beloved, and yet find at the heart's core something so practical and cold that it would turn your blood to stone."
"'You'd think, wouldn't you, that there was nothing to do in all the world, but to dance and drink and laugh and eat and wake up at midday tomorrow and open another bottle of wine and do it all over again...Beasts, they are, the lot of them, don't you think? Just animals...You and me, though...you and me - we know what's what.'"
"It was a thought, that. Not to attach yourself to a man, but to confront instead the open world, the wide fields of France and Spain, the ocean, anything. Not just to hitch a lift with the first fellow who looked as though he knew where he was going, but just to go."
"Sometimes, she thought, it might be better just to disappear from notice, than to attract a gentleman's particular attention like that."
"...there is nothing like the imminence of parting to make people unduly fond of each other."
"Wherever you are...God watches over you. He just looks on at you, with a strange eye and an uncaring heart."
"'For someone to be quite respectable...I think they must be shown respect.'"
"Her mistress had brightened, but now faded again, and was thoughtful. Perhaps it was not an easy thing, to be so entirely happy. Perhaps it was actually quite a fearful state to live in..."
"The ladies, who had condoled so thoroughly with her during her time of grief, found it rather more difficult to participate in her happiness, which takes a true and proper friend indeed."