Rummanah Aasi
  I've had a terrible run of adult reads lately. Books that had lots of potential for being a great read have crashed and burned. I'm afraid I am in a reading slump with these reads. Does anyone have any great adult fiction or even nonfiction reads that you can't put down and have been recommending nonstop? If so, please let me know!

Description: Pride and Prejudice was only half the story...
 In this irresistibly imagined below stairs answer to Pride and Prejudice,the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

Review: I had very high expectations for Longbourn. It was the coveted ARC at ALA this spent summer and has received several starred reviews from journals such as Booklist, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. Unfortunately, for me, I couldn't match my enthusiasm for this book like the other reviewers.
  Longbourn is marketed as Pride and Prejudice meets Downton Abbey story. While the Bennets do appear in the story, their lives unfold in the background much like the grown ups in the Peanuts comics and when one of the rare times they do appear it is to berate the servants. The light, comedic tone of Pride and Prejudice quickly turns to somber and bleak with very little bright moments. The spotlight of Longbourn is firmly fixed on the small servant staff that the Bennets employ and their own personal plights and herein lies the fatal flaw of the novel for me.
  While the novel is well written, Baker fails to make the servants interesting characters and come alive. Baker spends more time in creating horrible situations for her characters and ways that they could suffer than actually fleshing them out. While I did sympathize with a few, I wasn't attached to them as I should be and I really didn't care all that much for what was happening to the servants. I was also taken aback on how negatively the Bennets are portrayed. While I understand there has to be a difference stated between the employer and employee, there was a bitterness that is usually associated with a wealthier employer. If you recall, the Bennets are only a middle class family and they only employ a very small serving staff. I had a hard time believing that progressive thinkers such as Mr. Bennett and Elizabeth Bennett would rebuff their servants so severely.
  Readers who haven't read Pride and Prejudice will not feel lost with this story as it follows a skeletal outline of the original novel's plot, however, I think they will fail to realize the impact of the scandalous ways of the smarmy Mr. Wickham. Due to my disinterest, I thought the pacing was quite slow but perhaps someone who is more invested into the story would not find fault with the pacing. Would I recommend Longbourn? Well, that's a difficult question to answer. If you're looking for a happy spin off of Austen's classic, look somewhere. If you enjoy melodrama and are okay with lack luster characters, give Longbourn a try.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are inferences of sexual situations and attempted rape. There is are also some graphic war violence descriptions along with punishment of slaves. Recommended for older teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: An assembly such as this by Pamela Aidan, The Colour of Milk by Nell Leyshon,

5 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Well shoot Rummanah! It's always so disappointing when a book that's received a great deal of hype and a myriad of positive reviews just doesn't quite work as well for you personally. I think I would have a hard time reconciling the Bennets of this story with those of the original P&P as well, so I can see why you struggled a bit. As always though, I so enjoyed reading your thoughts!

  2. I do like P&P retellings, but I don't think this one is for me. I like it a bit more on the light side and I also don't like the sound of the disconnect. Hm... think I'll pass on this one. Brilly review!

  3. Ehh.. this is one I am going to skip. I am not the biggest fan of retellings and spin offs and all that especially if it is lackluster.

  4. Yuck! First, you called it. The Bennets, at least Mr. and Elizabeth would never treat the serving staff poorly, they are just too forward thinking. And Jane would hardly speak above a whisper, how would she chastise a servant. Afraid this author seems to have reimagined P&P without taking into account the Bennets. So sorry it didn't work for you.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Oh no, I'm very bummed to hear this wasn't as good as I hoped it would be. I think I'm definitely going to skip it now. You're right, the Bennets were rather progressive for their time, so it would be very hard for me to see them cast in such a negative light. It's a shame the characterization of the servants wasn't up to par either. Thank you for your honest, thoughtful review!

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