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Downstairs at the Bennets',
This review is from: Longbourn (Hardcover)
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"No man is a hero to his valet." In Regency Britain, the household of a gentleman, even one of modest fortune, was supported by a legion of mostly unseen servants. In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, that exquisite plus grand roman of Regency Chick-Lit, Mr. Bennet's modest needs and the rather more extensive ones of his wife and five daughters are met with a meager staff indeed. Mrs. Hill functions as both housekeeper and cook. Housemaids Sarah and Polly - still a child - clean the house, wash the extensive laundry, serve at table, and help in the kitchen. Mr. Hill, who is ailing, is responsible for the horses and the outside work with only the help of an occasional workman. This is a minimal staff for a household with five pretty but poorly-dowered marriageable daughters, all of whom must look their best at all times.
Sarah was hanging laundry trying not to stain it with her chilblains, which the day's scrubbing in lye had opened, when she first spotted the stranger coming up the old drovers' lane. The following morning the servants are introduced to James Smith, hired to help Mr. Hill with the heavy work. Mrs. Bennet is thrilled; she will have a proper coachman and a young footman to serve her guests at table.Mrs. Hill seems oddly ambivalent - Mr. Bennet had hired him without even informing her. Later, Sarah hears raised voices from the study; could Mrs. Hill possibly be arguing with her master? From that moment, Sarah mistrusts James Smith, although she is oddly attracted to him.
Longbourn fits itself nicely around Austen's book, never rewriting or reinterpreting her work, just observing the same events from the very different downstairs perspective. The chronology is the same, with a passage from Austen's book at the beginning of each chapter to set up the action downstairs. The charming daughters of Pride and Prejudice, seen from downstairs, come off as rather spoiled, thoughtless young misses. Longbourn is one of the most successful Austen spin-offs that I have read, and I heartily recommend it.
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Initial post: Mar 26, 2014 2:19:00 PM PDT
robert j weinkam says:
I enjoyed your review of Longbourn. Since you may be interested in other Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice related novels, I would like to introduce my full-length novel: MEETING ELIZABETH - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE INSPIRED.
It is 1793 - Jane is 17 when she accompanies Mrs Anne Lefroy to visit a friend for the summer. There she will meet a delightful brown-haired village girl and a tall, dark, and proud young gentleman who is visiting nearby. She might even attend dances and balls, and visit grand estates. No doubt romances will develop, but they would hardy proceed without some share of difficulty. They so rarely do.
The novel will be published in April, but I would like to send you a copy for your review. The cover and first three chapters can be seen on http://email@example.com.
Please let me know if you are interested and what format you prefer. You can contact me through my publication service firstname.lastname@example.org
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