Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Longbourn (Jo Baker)

baker, jo - longbourn

★★★★★★☆

Title: Longbourn
Author: Jo Baker
Genre: Historical Fiction    Pages: 443
First published: 2013
Edition: Paperback, published by Transworld Books in 2014

It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah’s hands are chapped and raw. Domestic life below stairs, ruled with a tender heart and an iron will by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a new footman, bearing secrets and the scent of the sea.

When I started this novel based on Pride and Prejudice I realised I had read it before, probably around the time it came out. Since I did not remember much about it I was happy to read it again. I worried it would not be very good since I had completely forgotten I had already read it!

I was pleasantly surprised. The story, centered around the Bennets’ servants, is very well told. I loved all the details about their chores and their daily lives compared to the Bennets. Our main character Sarah is a sweet hard-working girl, and it is easy to like her.

The ‘cast’ from Pride and Prejudice appear here and there and you recognise the events, but it never feels like it leans too heavily on the classic we all know and love. In fact I thought it was quite interesting to see those characters ‘behind-the-scenes;, as it were. All in all, it does manage to very much feels like its own book. It would have worked even if it had not used Jane Austen’s novel as its skeleton.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it is a thoughtfully written historical novel in which you learn a lot more about the time period in which the Austen novels are set and written, and not just the pretty things.

A bit of a gem in my opinion.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: What Kitty Did Next (Carrie Kablean)

Kablean, Carrie - What Kitty Did Next

★★★★★☆☆

Title: What Kitty Did Next
Author:  Carrie Kablean
Genre: Fiction / Hstorical Fiction
First published: 28 June 2018 by RedDoor Publishing
Edition: E-book, courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher

I love Jane Austen and a sequel of some sort is always ‘most welcome’. This one is definitely one of the better ones.

This story follows Kitty, who was best known in Pride and Prejudice as ‘the other silly sister’.  Having the spotlight put on her worked very well in my opinion. The imagined continuation of her life felt quite believable and the resulting wrap-up was satisfying.

I feel the author did a great job with a cast of mostly existing characters and as far as some sort of sequel goes, this book is definitely a success. The prose, especially in the beginning, is very much in the Austen vein. The strength of the prose and the story fluctuate a little and dips a little in the middle act, but overall I think this is a well written story that respects the original novel it flowed from.

Since I love Pride and Prejudice and am very familiar with these characters, I really enjoyed it. However, if you have not read Austen’s famous novel, I fear this book may fall a bit flat.

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Persuasion (Jane Austen)

Austen, Jane - Persuasion

★★★★★★☆

Title: Persuasion
Author:  Jane Austen
Genre: Classic    Pages: 188
First published: 1817
Edition: Paperback, published by Dover Publications in 1997

I have been meaning to read more Jane Austen, and settled on Persuasion. What a treat! I really loved this tale of Anne Elliot, who once turned down the man she loved because she was persuaded he was not good enough for her. Now she is older and wiser and of stronger mind when she encounters Captain Wentworth again.

In Persuasion, which is more restrained than say Pride and Prejudice, character studies are key and this is one thing that Austen does so well. I love the way she writes her characters. Not just Anne herself, who is a perfectly humble heroine, but also supporting characters, like her vain father and sister Elizabeth, her deluded sister Mary and even the happy-go-lucky Mr and Mrs Croft, and many more.

I like that Anne is much to blame for her own situation and that her future is in her own hands if only she has the strength to make her own choices. I like the way her storyline progresses and shows how she has grown as a woman within the constraints of her society.

I believe that the reason for the continuing popularity of Jane Austen’s books is the fact that many of the character traits she describes in her cast of characters are still quite current. We all know someone who is too influenced by others, or someone who seems kind, but does everything for their own selfish reasons.

It took me a couple of chapters to get into the story, but once I did I quickly loved it.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen)

Austen, Jane - Sense and Sensibility

★★★★★☆☆ 

Title: Sense and Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
First published: 1811
Edition: Paperback, published by Wordsworth Editions Ltd, reprint 1993

DANGER! SPOILERS AHEAD!

I read this book before about seven years ago and I remember liking it, but anywhere near as much as Pride and Prejudice. However, I have to say, this time around I found it a joy to read. The characters of Marianne and Elinor are both so near to my heart. I think I possess both Elinor’s sense and Marianne’s emotions.

I love how the two sisters are the polar opposites of each other, who handle being in love completely differently. Both are lovable in their own way. Elinor’s restraint and sense of propriety is a stark contrast to Marianne following her heart at every turn, regardless of what is considered the proper way to behave. I could really connect to Marianne’s indulgence in her sorrow when Willoughby leaves Devonshire. And yet, I could also relate to Elinor’s composure when she sees everything she had hoped for fall apart.

As for the male characters in the book. I cannot help, even while reading the book, seeing Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon, whose sad back story makes you feel sorry for him. The fact that he ends up with Marianne is slightly uncomfortable to me, as he is supposed to be more than double her age, but I guess that was reasonably normal in that day and age! Willoughby is an interesting character, who falls in love with Marianne against his will, but ends up choosing money and status over her, breaking her and his own heart in the process.

Can I just say Edward Ferrars is a complete sap! He is the nice guy, too nice for his own good, too nice to others, and yet there is something selfish about the way he lets himself fall in love with Elinor and the other way round, knowing he promised himself to someone else. He compromises his own happiness and that of Elinor for the sake of his own pride and loyalty to Lucy Steele, a girl he no longer loves. Had Lucy not shifted her attentions, he would have married her. The sap! But I guess his overly loyal character suits Elinor’s steady disposition and I guess of all the couples that frequent Jane Austen’s books they will probably be the ones living happily ever after.

With regard to the story itself, towards the middle of the book it starts to drag the tiniest bit, losing some of the spirit of the first half, but then, so does Marianne… The part where Elinor and Marianne are staying with Mrs Jennings in London is my least favourite bit of the book.

The strength of this story is the way Jane Austen portrays her characters and the society they move in. All the main characters are so well rounded, their personalities  and situations so vivid that you cannot help but relate to them,  even if these people were put to paper over two hundred years ago (which is crazy when you stop to think about it!).

All in all, Sense and Sensibility is a book that will always have a place on my book shelf and I am sure I will read again in the future.

5 out of 7 stars

Books

So I am reading some Jane Austen…

Austen, Jane - Sense and Sensibility (detail)

I love reading Jane Austen. It is an amazing thing how her books manage to transport modern readers to her world. Her characters have real depth and you feel their conflicts and their emotions so strongly.

I was a bit bored the other day and noticed ‘Sense and Sensibility’ was on Netflix. I decided to watch it. I do love that movie. It has some great actors in it as well. Emma Thompson, Kate Winslett, Hugh Grant and Alan Rickman of course as Colonel Brandon. It’s one of those adaptations that just works. It’s not quite the same as the book, but I like it nonetheless.

It made me want to re-read the book, which in my opinion certainly is not Austen’s best work, but I find it quite enjoyable anyway.

I am hoping to get some of the other Austen books when I am in England at the end of the month. Fingers crossed I will get the chance to browse some second-hand book shops or charity shops while I am over there.