Monday, September 14, 2015

Summer Reading Highlights, Part 3: Jane Austen Spin-Offs – Longbourn and Death Comes to Pemberley

This book takes place alongside the events of Pride and Prejudice, this time from the perspective of the servants who tend to the Longbourn estate and the Bennet family. In keeping with great TV shows such as Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs, the stories of the ‘downstairs’ residents of great English houses really completes the picture of what life really was like in the 1800-1900s.

There were far more Sarahs and Pollys than there were Elizabeth Bennets in the Georgian and Regency eras, and their ways of life are often overlooked in favor of the flashier upper class. Of course servants of grand houses were in much better positions themselves than a great number of English citizens, as demonstrated by the high desirability of such jobs. My favorite part of historical fiction is developing a greater understanding of how people lived in different places and times, and this story fits the bill nicely, while also fleshing out a classic story!

This story is a direct sequel to Austen’s classic, picking up the story of Elizabeth and Darcy a few years after their wedding at the end of Pride and Prejudice, and adding in a juicy mystery to boot! I have been a great fan of sequels and series since I was a child, always appreciating the continuation of a story for characters I have grown to care about, and this book doesn’t disappoint in that respect.

I loved reading about (one possible version) of Elizabeth’s life at Pemberley as a wife and mother, with almost all of the Bennets making an appearance. The framework of a mystery was much more interesting to me than the simple romances that other Austen sequels seem to feature (though this is the first I’ve read, so I shouldn’t judge until I’ve tried the others out), though I might have appreciated a story much more centered around Elizabeth and Darcy than Wickham and Lydia. But that slight detail didn’t keep me from really enjoying this book.

I wish James had written more before she sadly passed away last year.

(Also, the BBC miniseries based on the book was great, and very close to the book!)

What are your favorite historical novels? 

Keep reading! Beth

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