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.


Happy Friday


Audrey’s Halloween Costume. Needless to say, she thought she was terrifying.

Thank goodness it’s Friday, right? Even though it was a short week for me, I’m not complaining and I’m looking forward to catching up on life this weekend. Laundry is overflowing. Our apartment needs a’cleanin’. Audrey wants to go to the dog park. Beyond that, my family will be in town tomorrow for both of my brothers’ football game and I’m excited to finally watch Drew and Luke in action! On Sunday, my cousin and best friend will be visiting with her new husband. He’s English and I never tire of listening to his accent!

Can you believe November has begun? Have a lovely weekend everyone and enjoy the following tidbits…

For Jane Austen admirers

A thought provoking read on God

What a delightful idea for breakfast tomorrow

Easy fall decorating ideas

Tea is the new black?

18 things to get rid of right now

This woman has killer taste

Wouldn’t these brighten up your desk?

What to read this weekend

Just one more Halloween costume!

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