Tag Archives: Jane Austen

Prejudice and Pride by Lynn Messina – A Guest Post Review

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT

SYNOPSIS – (From Goodreads)

You know Darcy: rich, proud, standoffish, disapproving, one of the greatest romantic heroes of all time. But you don’t know this Darcy because THIS Darcy is a woman.

In PREJUDICE & PRIDE, Lynn Messina’s modern retelling with a gender-bendy twist, everything is vaguely familiar and yet wholly new. Bingley is here, in the form of Charlotte “Bingley” Bingston, an heiress staying at the Netherfield hotel on Central Park, as is Longbourn, transformed from an ancestral home into a perennially cash-strapped art museum on the edge of the city. Naturally, it employs an audacious fundraiser with an amused glint in his eye called Bennet.

All the favorite characters are present and cleverly updated: Providing the cringe-worthy bon mots is Mr. Meryton, the nerve-wracked executive director of the Longbourn who’s always on the lookout for heiresses to join his museum’s very important committees. (Universally acknowledged truth: Any woman in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a social committee to chair.) Collin Parsons is still in obsequious, if ironic, awe of his patroness, Lady Catherine de Bourgh. The wicked Georgia Wickham toils as a graphic designer at Redcoat Design by day and schemes against Darcy by night.


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GUEST POST – teachergirl73

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been making my way through various “reimaginings” of the works by Jane Austen. The Austen Project, has published three reinterpretations of  Austen’s novels Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, Emma by Alexander McCall Smith and Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid. Of these three reimagined stories, I have read Emma and Sense & Sensibility, and sadly was left feeling a profound sense of disappointment after reading both novels.  I am hopeful that when I get around to reading McDermid’s version of  Northanger Abbey, it will redeem The Austen Project in my eyes, and give me hope that the yet to be published Pride and Prejudice, my all-time favourite of Austen’s works, will be worthy of its inspiration.

Thankfully, my disappointment over both Trollope’s and Smith’s perspectives on Sense & Sensibility and Emma, have not put me off of reading the works of other authors who wish to pay tribute to Austen’s novels. In Prejudice and Pride by Lynn Messina, Austen’s most beloved story gets a 21st century re-boot which includes relocating the story to New York City, and some interesting twists and turns for the characters. In this tribute to Pride and Prejudice, Messina decides to play with her reader’s ‘sensibilities’ by doing a complete gender swap of all the major characters, with the one exception of Lady Catherine de Bourgh because no one could possibly mess with that character!

There are many parts of this new and fresh take on Pride and Prejudice that I quite enjoyed. The descriptions of the various New York City locales were very well done and reminded me of why I love the city so much. All of the original story’s themes are present. Messina deftly weaves into her modern tale the consequences of how making a very bad first impression can lead to many more incorrect presumptions and misunderstandings. As the story of Prejudice and Pride unfolds, the misconceptions rapidly snowball out of control, leaving a trail of increasingly devastating results which ultimately is what will pull the reader in and keep them engaged until the end.

There is one part of this re-imagined story that I had a difficult time overcoming and that was the gender swap. It is a really neat twist on the story and I was very curious to see how it would work when I first started reading the story. Unfortunately, I spent much of the novel thinking, “That wouldn’t happen in real life!” as Elizabeth Bennet’s personality traits were transferred into Bennet Bethle, a 21st century man. The effect of transferring Mr. Darcy’s qualities into Darcy Fitzwilliam, a young heiress, was less of an issue, but in the end I just found it really difficult to accept the gender swap as believable.

The plight of Elizabeth Bennet and the rest of her sisters, living in the early 19th century England, simply cannot be applied to a young, educated male living in New York City in the present day.  All of the Bennet women, including their mother, faced the very real possibility of losing their home and livelihood upon the passing of Mr. Bennet because there was no male heir in their immediate family. Bennet Bethle comes from a middle class background which granted makes him an unlikely suitor for an heiress with substantial wealth,  but it is still not nearly the same disadvantage that Elizabeth Bennet and her sisters faced. This disconnect between the characters made it difficult for me to buy into the evolution of Bennet and Darcy’s relationship, as they eventually realize their love for one another.

Overall, the story was enjoyable, and I applaud Messina’s attempt to tackle a project inspired by a much loved classic. It cannot be easy taking on the challenge of modernizing a story such as Pride and Prejudice. I would definitely consider reading more novels by her.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

LMLynn Messina is author of ten novels, including the best-selling Fashionistas, which has been translated into sixteen languages, and a series of Regency romance novels. Her essays have appeared in Self, American Baby and the New York Times Modern Love column, and she’s a regular contributor to the Times Motherlode blog. She lives in New York City with her husband and sons.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

 

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If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It! My Plea to The Austen Project

GUEST POST by teachergirl73

The Austen Project is celebrating 200 years of Jane Austen’s works, which I think is a wonderful thing because some of my all-time favourite novels are written by her. I think that my love of Jane Austen’s writing is part of the problem that I keep running into as I read these “re-imagined” classics. For Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope and now for Alexander McCall Smith’s interpretation of Emma, I am left feeling disappointed for I truly believe that both novels had the potential to be more engaging than they were.

After reading Trollope’s version of Sense & Sensibility, I came to the realization that it is the adherence or lack thereof to the basic premise of the story which I have the most difficulty with. Regardless of which version be it the many film adaptations or Trollope’s modernization. You can read my review for Sense & Sensibility here http://wp.me/p3xI0z-173.



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From GoodreadsThe summer after she graduates from university, Emma Woodhouse returns home to the village of Highbury, where she will live with her health-conscious father until she is ready to launch her interior-design business and strike out on her own. In the meantime, she will do what she does best: offer guidance to those less wise than she is in the ways of the world. Happily, this summer brings many new faces to Highbury and into the sphere of Emma’s not always perfectly felicitous council: Harriet Smith, a naïve teacher’s assistant at the ESL school run by the hippie-ish Mrs. Goddard; Frank Churchill, the attractive stepson of Emma’s former governess; and, of course, the perfect Jane Fairfax.


When I picked up Emma by Alexander McCall Smith, I thought for sure that I would get the satisfaction of reading a new and modern twist on a story that I already adored. An added bonus was that I had already read several books in Smith’s series “The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency” and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I felt like it was almost a guarantee that I would enjoy his take on Emma. After much pondering, I think that are certain elements of the story that Smith did a very good job at such as adding comedic moments and characterizations that were quite entertaining. In the end, however, I really believe that he missed his mark with his portrayal of the two most important characters in the book, Emma Woodhouse and George Knightly.

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Jeremy Northam and Gwyneth Paltrow as George Knightly and Emma Woodhouse in Emma (1996)

The story begins with a brief explanation of how Mr. Woodhouse had grown into the most lovable “worry-wart” you might ever encounter. His bemoanings and theories of how the proverbial “sky is falling!” were some of the best and funniest parts of this novel. Smith also created more of a background for some of the smaller characters in the story which were highly entertaining, such as Mrs. Goddard, “the hippie”, who was known for adding her “special” ingredient into her cakes, and Mr. Elton, the vicar, who was desperately looking for a wife with a large family fortune to bail him out of some bad property investments.  Smith’s embellishment of these characters was definitely an excellent addition to the story. Unlike Sense & Sensibility, Persuasion and even Pride and Prejudice, Emma is a lighthearted story that is definitely meant to make you smile or even laugh out loud in places. I would say that Smith kept with that theme throughout the book.

Ever alive to the social comedy of village life, beloved author Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma is the busybody we all know and love, and a true modern delight.”

Source: http://theaustenproject.com/books/#sthash.kgwCPjPy.dpuf

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Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz in Clueless (1995)

My problem with this description about the book is the part that states “Emma is the busybody we all know and love”.  I have to say that I did NOT love Emma. I had the exact opposite reaction to her character, which was a first given that I’ve seen several variations of the story in film and read the original novel. It was his description of Emma from almost the very beginning that gave me great pause. His interpretation of Emma was that of a completely self-absorbed, spoiled, mean, little rich girl who was so completely ignorant of how her words and actions impacted others that she was completely unlikable.

This characterization of Emma left me quite confused because my recollection of the story did not leave me hating Emma, and if I had only ever read Smith’s version of the story, then that is exactly what I would feel about her. Smith’s attempts to describe Emma’s motivations were also erratic with at one point he seems to try to imply she is bi-curious and that is why she becomes so fixated on Harriet Smith’s friendship, to making her almost into a “madam” as she encourages Harriet to become a kept woman as a way to help fund her “gap year” travel plans. It is an interesting interpretation but not in keeping with the core of the story, which no matter how an artist reimagines, it should remain constant. Emma in this version, hardly shows much affection or true caring for anyone else other than herself.

EMMA [BR / US 1996]   GWYNETH PALTROW, TONI COLLETTE     Date: 1996 (Mary Evans Picture Library)
EMMA [BR / US 1996] GWYNETH PALTROW, TONI COLLETTE Date: 1996
As for Mr. Knightly, here again, I was left wanting. I kept waiting for the magic to spark between Emma and Knightly as I knew that it should, but it never actually happened. As I struggled through the novel, I kept thinking, “Why would this guy ever want to be with her?” When it came down to the significant moments in the story where Mr. Knightly tries to help Emma see the error of her ways, I never got even a hint of the passion that I knew should have been there between them. I kept waiting for the chemistry to erupt, but it never really happened. Even when Knightly and Emma were arguing which is where you would expect the fireworks between two people who are in love and don’t know it yet to show, the emotion just seemed to fizzle.

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Jonny Lee Miller as George Knightley in Emma (2009)

I was so perplexed by the novel, that I felt the need to go back and watch the BBC mini-series that aired on Masterpiece Theatre back in 2010, starring Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller. I also went back to the original novel by Austen to do some comparisons between scenes and dialogue. In both cases, Emma’s character was written with far more depth so that we see that there is more to her than her being a spoiled, indulged little girl, but she also demonstrates great affection throughout the story for those closest to her, such as her father, Ms. Taylor and Mr. Knightly. It is these signs of empathy and humanity that I felt was really lacking throughout most of Smith’s book. Most importantly, you can feel the passion between Emma and Knightly and it is clear that there is more than just friendship developing between them from the beginning, even if neither character realizes it.

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Romola Garai and Jonny Lee Miller as Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley in Emma (2009)

So this all brings me back to the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it“, something that I sincerely believe those involved in The Austen Project need to consider. Modernizing Austen’s stories is a tall order, no doubt about it. My next book from The Austen Project to-be-read list is Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid. Here’s hoping that Northanger Abbey will live up to its inspiration!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

AMSAlexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland.

WEBSITE

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Death Comes to Pemberley – Mini-Series Review

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GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

I was very excited about the television adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley which aired in early November on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre. I had read the novel by P.D. James shortly after it was first released, and quite enjoyed the ode to Jane Austen mixed with a very well written police procedural that seemed fitting to the time.

71vOCbpMFoL._SL1280_Amazon.com – It is the eve of the Darcys’ annual ball at their magnificent Pemberley estate. Darcy and Elizabeth, now six years married, are relaxing with their guests after supper when the festivities are brought to an abrupt halt. A scream calls them to the window and a hysterical Lydia Wickham tumbles out of a carriage shrieking, “Murder!” What follows is the somber discovery of a dead man in Pemberley woods, a brother accused of murder, and the beginning of a nightmare that will threaten to engulf Pemberley and all the Darcys hold dear.

 

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I am a huge fan of Masterpiece Theatre and usually any import from across the pond is my cuppa tea, whether it is a period piece or contemporary drama. I fully expected to have the same feelings about Death Comes to Pemberley as I do about Downton Abbey or Sherlock. Sadly, instead of finding another great piece to satisfy my need for British drama, instead, I was left with disappointment. The scenery and setting were beautiful and the casting of Matthew Goode as Mr. Wickham and Jenna Coleman as Lydia Bennet was superb. Coleman’s performance as Lydia, might be the best interpretation of the character that I have ever seen.  It truly was a gifted performance. Goode’s take on Mr. Wickham was also very well done, pulling off the dashing, young cad beautifully.

The Wickhams as protrayed by Matthew Goode and Jenna Coleman in Death Comes to Pemberley

As for the lord and lady of the manor, from almost the beginning, I found that the relationship between Mr. Darcy and his wife Elizabeth, played by Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin lacked any real connection. They were not the happily married couple with a young family that we found in James’ novel and as we would expect to find in the years following the original story of Pride and Prejudice. Instead, I found the relationship between Darcy and Elizabeth without any passion, and once the crisis hit, Darcy’s attitude towards his wife was simply unbelievable. To say that it was ungentlemanly would be a severe understatement.

After the first part of the series aired, I was very puzzled by the direction that the creators of the show decided to take, but I still held out hope that in the second night, the series would pull it together and demonstrate a credible reason for the disintegration of the Darcys’ marriage. It did not, and when at the end the writers decided it was time to wrap up everything with a nice, neat, tidy little bow, the reconciliation between Darcy and Elizabeth was not even remotely believable. In the novel, Darcy and Elizabeth stand together as a united front in the chaos that followed the aftermath of a murder on the grounds of Pemberley right through to the subsequent trial.

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James, P.D. Death Comes to Pemberley, Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2012, p. 105.

Even if you hadn’t read the novel prior to watching the mini-series, I still feel like most Pride and Prejudice fans would be confused with Mr. Darcy’s openly hostile behaviour towards his wife throughout most of the show. This point prevented me from getting any real enjoyment out of the series because it felt so false.

The Darcys as protrayed by Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin in the series.

So, you win some and you lose some…I’ll just have to wait for the return of Downton Abbey on Sunday, January 4th, 2015, and in the meantime, I’ll just re-watch Pride and Prejudice over the holidays.

 

Someday Maybe – Ophelia London REVIEW

TitleSomeday Maybe by Ophelia London

Age group: New Adult

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Entangled: Embrace

Scheduled to release: October 20, 2014

Goodreads

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SOMEDAY MAYBE final cover - 1600


BLURB

A new adult title from Entangled’s Embrace imprint…

Some guys are impossible to forget.

Rachel Daughtry has a 10-year plan that leaves no room for mistakes. Or not-so-serious boys—including Oliver Wentworth, the freshman boyfriend she’s never forgotten. Now she’s back in San Francisco with an awesome-slash-scary new job. Unfortunately, The Plan doesn’t cover things like meeting her best friend’s new “secret” guy…Oliver.

Fortunately, no one knows that Rachel and Oliver were ever together, and endless bikini wax torture couldn’t make Rachel hurt her friend. But it’s killing Rachel. She’s not over him. Not even a little. And as her 10-year-plan crumbles around her, Rachel realizes that maybe—just maybe—Oliver feels the same way.

Now Rachel is on the verge of losing all control. And her best friend. And the love of her life…


REVIEW

There is no shortage of fiction inspired by Jane Austen’s works, what is not so thick on the ground are good quality stories that can literally transport you like that of Ophelia London. I adored Definitely, Maybe in Love, a reinterpretation of Pride and Prejudice. I specify reinterpretation because though her work shares many common themes with Austen’s, Ophelia London’s stories have their own unique and individual identity.

PersuasionUnlike Pride and Prejudice, which I have read and watched numerous times, to the point that when my then infant daughter heard the familiar melody of the BBC adaptation starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth she would look up in interest. I am not as familiar with Persuasion, Jane Austen’s last completed novel and have only watched the glorious 2007 adaptation starring Sally Hawkins and the delicious Rupert Penry-Jones. But really who requires more than that as justification for viewing? His presence is almost reason enough to break my oath not to watch MI-5 after they wrote out my beloved Tom played by Mr. Darcy, I mean Matthew Macfadyen, but I digress. I think I was always somewhat disdainful of Anne’s decision to break her betrothal to Frederick for what I deemed to be flimsy rationale, which discouraged me from reading the classic novel or viewing some of the other film versions but I was more than intrigued to see what Ms London’s approach would involve.

Someday Maybe alternates between Rachel Daughtry’s freshman year at college when she met and fell in love with Oliver Wentworth and the present, six years following these events. This deviates greatly from Persuasion which only refers to the attachment between Anne Elliot and naval officer Frederick Wentworth in the past focusing exclusively on their meeting after eight years and subsequent courtship.  However both stories revolve around a single question: Will the heroine and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

A scholarship student Rachel’s inability to balance her relationship with Oliver and manage her studies is a recipe for disaster. Knowing her brother would not approve of her having a romantic attachment at this time when her attention should be solely directed towards scholastic achievement she opts to hide her relationship with Oliver. Six years hence despite her recommitment to the “10 year plan” it is evident that Rachel is not over Oliver and that the job is not working out the way that she imagined.

Ultimately Ophelia London proves with Someday Maybe that the success of her first Austen interpretation Definitely, Maybe in Love was not a fluke perfectly capturing the longing and remorse at the heart of the original. Even if you are not an admirer of Jane Austen’s novels, if such a being exists, I would still recommend this story to all fans of love stories in general. I for one am greatly looking forward to what she will come up with next.

Giveaway:

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About the Author:

USA Today bestselling author Ophelia London was born and raised among the redwood trees in beautiful northern California. Once she was fully educated, she decided to settle in Florida, but her car broke down in Texas and she’s lived in Dallas ever since. A cupcake and treadmill aficionado (obviously those things are connected), she spends her time watching art-house movies and impossibly trashy TV, while living vicariously through the characters in the books she writes. Ophelia is the author of SOMEDAY MAYBE; DEFINITELY, MAYBE IN LOVE; ABBY ROAD; the Perfect Kisses series including: FALLING FOR HER SOLDIER, PLAYING AT LOVE, SPEAKING OF LOVE, and MAKING WAVES; and the upcoming Sugar City series for Entangled’s Bliss line. Visit her at ophelialondon.com. But don’t call when The Vampire Diaries (or Dawson’s Creek) is on.

Twitter: @ophelia_london | Facebook | Website | Pinterest | Goodreads

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Definitely, Maybe in Love – Ophelia London ON SALE NOW!

Definitely, Maybe in Love by Ophelia London is on sale for $.99 now! Spread the word!

TitleDefinitely, Maybe in Love by Ophelia London

Age group: New Adult

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Publisher: Entangled: Embrace

Scheduled to release: October 28, 2013

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Her theory of attraction is about to get a new angle…

Spring Honeycutt wants two things: to ace her sustainable living thesis and to save the environment. Both seem hopelessly unobtainable until her college professor suggests that with a new angle, her paper could be published. Spring swears she’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that happens.

“Whatever it takes,” however, means forming a partnership with the very hot, very privileged, very conceited Henry Knightly.

Henry is Spring’s only hope at publication, but he’s also the über-rich son of a land developer and cash-strapped Spring’s polar opposite. Too bad she can’t help being attracted to the way he pushes her buttons, both politically and physically. As they work on her thesis, Spring finds there’s more to Henry than his old money and argyle sweaters…but can she drop the loud-and-proud act long enough to let him in? Suddenly, choosing between what she wants and what she needs puts Spring at odds with everything she believes in.

Definitely, Maybe in Love is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice that proves true love is worth risking a little pride.

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I was trying to convince myself that you were the last woman in the world I should be in love with.” He ran a finger from my forehead to the tip of my nose. “Even though I already was madly in love with the most incredible woman in the world.”

 

REVIEW

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is an enduring classic that has inspired a myriad of reinterpretations from the campy Bridget Jones’ Diary to the outlandish Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Definitely, Maybe in Love is a more than worthy variation of this beloved story.

Spring Honeycutt is an activist, she is living her life aspiring towards building a more sustainable environment. Henry Knightly the Third represents everything Spring despises an entitled, rich person who has no care for the planet. Or does he?

I adored Ophelia London’s ode to Pride and Prejudice, she completely reimagined the story, yet remained true to the core plot. I will say this though, Elizabeth Bennett didn’t have a patch on the prejudice that Spring Honeycutt bore towards Henry Knightly, so much so I began to despair that these two characters would be able to make a go of it. I was continually impressed at how skillfully Ms. London orchestrated the interactions between Spring and Henry realistically pitting them against one another yet maintaining the irresistible draw each had for the other.

If you are looking for a read worthy of the best of Jane Austen then Definitely, Maybe in Love is the book for you.

Disclaimer: ARC was kindly provided by the publisher for an honest review. 

 

 

About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Ophelia London was born and raised among the redwood trees in beautiful northern California. Once she was fully educated, she decided to settle in Florida, but her car broke down in Texas and she’s lived in Dallas ever since. A cupcake and treadmill aficionado (obviously those things are connected), she spends her time watching arthouse movies and impossibly trashy TV, while living vicariously through the characters in the books she writes. Ophelia is the author of SOMEDAY MAYBE; DEFINITELY, MAYBE IN LOVE; ABBY ROAD; the Perfect Kisses series including: FALLING FOR HER SOLDIER, PLAYING AT LOVE, SPEAKING OF LOVE, and MAKING WAVES; and the upcoming Sugar City series for Entangled’s Bliss line. Visit her at ophelialondon.com. But don’t call when The Vampire Diaries (or Dawson’s Creek) is on.

Twitter: @ophelia_london | Facebook | Website | Pinterest | Goodreads

GUEST POST – Longbourn by Jo Baker

GUEST REVIEWER – teachergirl73

longbourn cover jo baker

  • Title: Longbourn
  • Author: Jo Baker
  • ISBN 0385351232
  • (ISBN13: 9780385351232)
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Published: October 8th 2013 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2013)
  • Format: Hardcover Edition
  • Genre/s: Literature/Fiction
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Source: Puchased
  • Rating: A

Back in October, I had the opportunity to go to a special screening of Joe Wright’s 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice at the TIFF Bell Lightbox which was followed by a discussion with  Jo Baker, the author of the new novel Longbourn.  For those of you who are already fans of Pride and Prejudice, then you will recognize the name of the book as that of the fictional estate where the Bennet family lived.

I am a huge fan of Wright’s interpretation of Jane Austen‘s beloved novel, and I was lucky enough to have seen it at TIFF back in 2005, at its Gala Premiere. The cinematography and musical score are nothing short of exquisite, and Matthew Macfadyen‘s portrayal of a more vulnerable Mr. Darcy completely won me over. I was not the only one who was impressed by Wright’s production, as this version served as an inspiration for Jo Baker’s novel Longbourn. In Wright’s production, we get to see a glimpse of the Longbourn servants at work on the estate. This is the basis of Baker’s novel, as she tells the story of the servants of Longbourn, as the story of Pride and Prejudice unfolds.

Baker’s ability to describe the day-to-day business of living in the early 19th century is very detailed, and certainly made me appreciate the creature comforts that we have today! She does an excellent job of describing the arduous and mostly unpleasant work involved in keeping the Bennet family in the lifestyle to which was befitting of a family of its stature. Much of this description is used in the beginning of the novel to set the stage of just how difficult and uncertain the life of a servant could be. More importantly, however, Baker makes it clear just how powerless servants were over the circumstances of their lives.

longbourn uk hardback coverIn Pride and Prejudice, we are introduced to the Bennet family, who hope to arrange advantageous marriages for their five daughters because the estate was entailed to a male cousin. It is not until reading Longbourn, however, that you are introduced to the far more desperate fate of the servants living on the estate, what would become of them once Mr. Collins takes over? As most of Mrs. Bennet’s anxiety results in comedic antics as she frets about finding five husbands for her girls, there is a far more serious concern brewing in the servants quarters.

It is after she has set the stage of what a day in the life of a servant might look like in England in the early 1800’s, that Baker begins to weave another element, one of a very fragile love, into the story.  It is at this point that the novel takes hold of the reader and does not let go.

James had no intentions; he could not afford to have any; he could not afford to rope another person to his saddle. All he could do was keep his head down and get his work done. Which was why this stirring in him, the prickle of desire in his belly, the twist of jealousy there too, was so very unwelcome indeed. It must be quashed; it do not, after all, mean anything. It was a shame: that was the most that could be said of it. A shame to have to turn his head away, when he would very much prefer to look; a shame that Sarah would of course go and fall in love and it would not be with him. But the sorrow of it came as something of a surprise: he should by now be perfectly accustomed to doing what he did not want to do, to letting things happen that he did not want to happen. But this? No; he could not reconcile himself to this.

As I was reading, I found that with each page, Longbourn just got better and better. Baker paints not just the historical setting of the estate and surrounding area, but sheds some light on the troubles facing England at the time, namely the war with France and its inevitable costs on both the soldiers and civilians who survived. Baker also picks up a thread from Austen’s novel that suggested that Mr. Bingley’s family money came from his father’s involvement in the merchant trade. Baker runs with this storyline as she implies that the Bingleys’ money has not just come from trade but also has connections to a Caribbean estate and slavery.  All of these outside forces have some impact on the lives of all of those that live and work at Longbourn, and I think that is what makes this novel the perfect companion piece to Pride and Prejudice.

HIGHER FEES APPLY. British author Jo Baker pictured at her publisher's office.Jo Baker was born in Lancashire. She was educated at Oxford and at Queen’s University, Belfast, where she completed a PhD on the work of the Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen. The Undertow is her first publication in the United States. She is the author of three previous novels published in the United Kingdom: Offcomer, The Mermaid’s Child, and The TellingJo Baker has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies. From 2001-2003 she was the Artistic Director of the Belfast Literary Festival. She lives in Lancaster with her husband, the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, and their son Daniel. Longbourn is her fifth novel.

Definitely, Maybe in Love – Ophelia London

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is an enduring classic that has inspired a myriad of reinterpretations from the campy Bridget Jones’ Diary to the outlandish Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Definitely, Maybe in Love is a more than worthy variation of this beloved story.

Spring Honeycutt is an activist, she is living her life aspiring towards building a more sustainable environment. Henry Knightly the Third represents everything Spring despises an entitled, rich person who has no care for the planet. Or does he?

Spring Honeycutt wants two things: to ace her sustainable living thesis and to save the environment. Both seem hopelessly unobtainable until her college professor suggests that with a new angle, her paper could be published. Spring swears she’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that happens.

Henry is Spring’s only hope at publication, but he’s also the über-rich son of a land developer and cash-strapped Spring’s polar opposite—though she can’t help being attracted to the way he pushes her buttons, both politically and physically. Spring finds there’s more to Henry than his old money and argyle sweaters…but can she drop the loud-and-proud act long enough to let him in? Suddenly, choosing between what she wants and what she needs puts Spring at odds with everything she believes in.

Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice (Photo credit: Apostolos Letov)

I adored Ophelia London’s ode to Pride and Prejudice, she completely reimagined the story, yet remained true to the core plot. I will say this though, Elizabeth Bennett didn’t have a patch on the prejudice that Spring Honeycutt bore towards Henry Knightly, so much so I began to despair that these two characters would be able to make a go of it. I was continually impressed at how skillfully Ms. London orchestrated the interactions between Spring and Henry realistically pitting them against one another yet maintaining the irresistible draw each had for the other.

If you are looking for a read worthy of the best of Jane Austen then Definitely, Maybe in Love is the book for you.

AUTHOR: Ophelia London

RATING: 4 1/2 Stars

GENRE: New Adult/Romance

Disclaimer: ARC was kindly provided by the publisher for an honest review.