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Jo Baker Visits David Bookshop

20 Mar 2014

Last month Jo Baker talked to David’s book groups about how she wrote her newest novel, Longbourn.  The novel is structured on Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice but focuses on life downstairs in the servant’s quarters while the Bennets live their fiction upstairs.  Jo told us that the book wasn’t a sequel, but a “subquel.”  It is here where the reader gets a different perspective of Elizabeth Bennet and her family from a young maid named Sarah.  “If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah thought, she would be more careful not to trudge through muddy fields.”

Jo Baker told us that when she was planning her novel, she very carefully mapped out each event in Pride and Prejudice and plotted it into her novel.  When there was a ball, then our protagonist Sarah had to walk to town in pelting rain to collect the shoe ribbons for the Bennett girls.  When Lydia runs off with Wycombe, then Sarah visits the postmaster twice daily for correspondence to and from London.

But despite this parallel structure, Jo Baker’s Longbourn stands alone as a novel.  The reader comes to love Sarah and the other domestic staff around her.  As the Guardian says, “it’s a joy in its own right.”

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