Jo Baker’s ‘Longbourn’

LongbournThere’s been a recent trend towards modern authors drawing on elements of classic novels. In Longbourn, we’re taken into the world of ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

In Jane Austen’s classic, Longbourn is the Bennett family residence. In Jo Baker’s re-imagining, we see behind the facades of the rich and get a glimpse of the world inhabited by the servants. While the Bennett sisters search for husbands, their housemaid Sarah toils away in the kitchens, washing their underclothes and scrubbing the sheets until her hands bleed. While the ladies of the house are swept off in carriages, she walks for hours in the rain to fetch bows to decorate their shoes. While they get new dresses and go to balls, she relies on hand-me downs and darning and looks forward to a village knees up on her rare night off.

But while we all know the fate of the Bennett sisters, Sarah’s fate is much less certain. While Mr Bailey’s arrival sends the family into a tailspin, it’s his handsome footman that turns Sarah’s head. His knowledge of the world and his ambition to leave his position and set up for himself makes Sarah question everything about her life. At the same time, the new footman at Longbourn, James, seems too good to be true, and Sarah is determined to uncover his secrets. Continue reading

From page to screen

Pride and PrejudiceAll book lovers, everywhere, will have experienced on at least one occasion the immense frustration of watching a TV or big screen adaptation of a classic novel fail to do justice to the original.

But sometimes, one such adaption comes along that well and truly bucks the trend. Today marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, a novel that has enjoyed enduring popularity and continues to inspire countless adaptations on screen.

The majority of the time, I would fall firmly on the ‘books are best’ side. However, sometimes TV adaptations can prove particularly effective in making classic literature a bit more accessible and slightly less daunting. I know first-hand that having to study literature at school can sometimes have an adverse effect, probably from having to analyze novels rather than just being able to sit and enjoy them. As a result, I’ve got a shelf of novels that I always think I should read – The Moonstone, Middlemarch, and North and South just to name a few – but that always somehow seem to get passed over in favour of modern fiction.

TV and film adaptations take classic novels from the schoolroom desk to the living room sofa, The Paradiseand maybe after watching an adaptation or two some people might be inspired to go and read a classic for themselves?

A recent Radio Times poll (here) voted the BBC’s 1995 TV mini-series was voted the best ever adaption of Jane Austen’s classic novel, which is probably down to the now infamous lake scene involving Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy! But it’s not only Austen that translated well from page to screen. From The Paradise, based on Emile Zola’s Au Bonheur des Dames, to Brideshead Revisited and the BBC’s Sherlock, it’s clear that literary dramas are here to stay

Everyone’s got a favourite adaption – so if there are any good ones you’d recommend, let me know!