On the Shelf: Jo Baker’s Longbourn

   I’ve wanted to read Longbourn, the clever and original new novel from Jo Baker, all year. Last week, I finally got my hands on it and it proved to be one of the first novels I’ve read in awhile that I absolutely devoured.  As in, staying up too late night after night even though I know I’ll wake up bleary-eyed the next morning.

Set in eighteenth-century England, Longbourn follows the ‘downstairs lives’ of the servants scarcely mentioned in Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice.  Austenites will find the novel especially delightful, but even if you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, readers with a taste for evocative language and a setting which feels real enough to live in, will want to curl up with this cosy read.

Like millions of readers, I was enchanted by Pride and Prejudice; by the love story of Elizabeth Bennet and her Mr. Darcy; appalled at the self-importance of Mr. Collins and humored by the high-strung antics of Mrs. Bennet. Longbourn not only heightened this interest, but offered a deeply satisfying and engrossing perspective on P&P’s other world through the observations and experiences of the servants.

Baker’s careful and considered details brought regency England to life while her realistically-drawn characters offered fascinating insights into what life was like for most people. This is not the England of ball gowns and pump rooms, but one in which day to day living is only wrought by cracked hands, sore backs and hour after hour of exhausting labor.

Above all, you’ll become deeply concerned for Sarah, a young servant discovering what it means to find happiness and fulfillment in a class-constrained world. You’ll cheer on her budding romance with James and effortlessly turn the pages for hints, clues and lush details about the characters’ past and present lives which are anything but simple.

If you enjoyed Crusoe’s Daughter, you’ll definitely enjoy Longbourn.

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Travel Mondays: 9 Ways to Judge Europe by its Cover

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How stunning is Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Stratford-on-Avon? Visited March 2012.

Sometimes I still need to pinch myself over the fact that I survived my MA year at Bristol. So much work, but so many more fantastic travel experiences. Not only was I studying my favorite authors, but I was able to visit many of their former homes and favorite haunts. So of course I had to write about them for DreamPlanGo:

For those who own more dog-eared paperbacks than they’d like to admit, there is no richer travel destination than Europe. Explore the haunts of literature’s most enduring authors and their beloved characters in these nine destinations made for bibliophiles:

Keep reading over here for the full article and let me know which literary destination you’d choose!

Travel Mondays: Spring Break Your Way

brazilHello, everyone! I hope you all had a great weekend. Our flight from Cali didn’t get in till after midnight, so I’ve been having one too many cups of coffee today, but worse things have happened. I’m looking forward to sharing photos and recommendations from our trip, but in the meantime, it’s almost spring break time!

I’m back writing on Dream Plan Go today and so continue reading over here for my spring break travel ideas.:) See everyone back tomorrow!

Do You Like Jane Austen?

pink booksSorry for not writing yesterday, everyone! It was the first sick day I took in a long time–not to mention the sickest I’ve felt in quite awhile. I’m so thankful to be feeling better today and wanted to share you with a little news about the Jane Austen Society of North America. Did you know that the annual conference is being held here in Minneapolis this year? Unfortunately, neither did I! Until yesterday. If you like, you can listen to an interesting conversation about Jane Austen here.

I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s novels, but it really wasn’t until this past year that I started fully appreciating her work. During my year in Bristol, I was a mere ten minute train ride from Bath–the place to see and be seen during Austen’s time–and exploring this city made me appreciate Jane even more.

Inside the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England

Inside the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England

Austen actually hated Bath and the social status it stood for. While I used to find her work somehow stiff or too pretty,  her work is truly a brilliant commentary on the social system of eighteenth century England. Not only that, but has anyone else ever created such unforgettable characters as Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennett and Lady Bertram, to name a few?

Outside of The Pump Room, mentioned several times in Mansfield Park

Outside of The Pump Room, mentioned several times in Mansfield Park

My favorite Austen novel is Sense and Sensibility and the 1995 film adaption with Hugh Grant and Kate Winslet is the only movie I can watch again and again.

Do you like Jane Austen? Why do you think so many people do? Is it because we’re all just hoping for our Mr. Darcy?

xo, E

Happy Friday

Clifton

It’s a quarter past nine on the most perfect late summer morning in Sussex, the sun is pouring through my (not for much longer) open window and I for one am thrilled it’s the weekend.  Yes, I’m writing this from the comfort of my bed, not at work.

This weekend I’m finally making an overdue to return to my University town of Bristol with my old housemates, and I can’t wait.  We have two whole days to spend together and catch-up; something we never get to do despite the charms of social media.   I can’t wait to get my camera out, enjoy lots of west country cider and stroll around the streets I know so well.

This weekend also marks the beginning of a new era, I’m away this weekend to celebrate a friend’s birthday, the first one of us to turn 25.  Not forgetting that OfftheShelf’s own Emily Johnson also turns 25 tomorrow! As we all begin to leave our early twenties behind, I’ve begun to wonder if the way we behave and see the world changes – so far, I still feel the same way about Bristol as I did when I first arrived, aged 19.   But I’m so grateful for the wonderful memories this city has helped create for my friends and I.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, I hope it’s glorious…!

I made an impromptu visit to Oxford St after work last night, here’s some of the best autumn clothes and products I stumbled upon:

  • Scrub away the first chills of the new season with this exfoliator from Soap & Glory
  • Mac Retro Matte Vintage – After writing about these this week, I just could resist getting one.
  • I showed real self-restraint yesterday and didn’t spend all my week’s wages on this, no I regret it and I I’ll order this AMAZING coat online.

Also:

  • If I fall head-first back in love with Bristol this weekend, I’m going to put a deposit down on this flat in Clifton
  • If you can get last night tickets, go and see Noel Coward’s Private Lives at The Gielgud. It’s incredible.

Happy Friday!

Ashx