Longbourn by Jo Baker – Mar 17

Fifteen members together with 2 visitors were present at this month’s Book Club meeting, with apologies received from six other members along with their views and thoughts on the book. We began this meeting where we took a few moments to relate our own special memories and stories of how we would best remember and miss one of our lovely members, Vicki, who sadly is no longer with us.

Brenda then asked members for their thoughts on the book and it became fairly apparent that everyone really enjoyed reading this book, even with a few saying they did not expect to, as it was definitely a book they would not have chosen themselves as it was out of their comfort zones.

Everyone agreed it was a simple, easy read, engrossing, and due to its clever,  beautiful and descriptive writing, making it easy to imagine the reality of the harshness of life below stairs with the pampered shallow one upstairs.  Most thought the book showed that real life was really downstairs – unlike upstairs which was a facade (what did those upstairs girls really do all day!!??). One member even mentioned that she began to feel a resentment carrying forward to “upstairs” because of the harshness “downstairs”.  Sarah was by far the best liked character and her hard life was so vividly well described we all felt her chilblains!!!  We discussed at length the harshness of the chores and lives of these two young orphaned housemaids tempered with our own life experiences and wondered how today’s teenagers would fair and perhaps they should read this book to fully understand how life has really evolved from their perspective from then to now!!

It was also said by a few members that they did not enjoy the “war chapters” and maybe felt they lingered on too long and were not sure that this was necessary but others argued that they felt they were important for painting the picture and character of James.  We chatted about the other characters and their individual standing in the book in general, with Jeanie’s lovely word of Cad being so aptly applied to the odd character but it was agreed we all loved the level of detail and poetic and flowing descriptions.

Everyone was pleased with James and Sarah finding and re-uniting with each other at the end of the story although one member mooted that she felt the improbability of Sarah being able to travel across the terrain in unsuitable clothing and shoes to the Lake District and actually finding him (the Lake District being an extremely huge area!). But others argued “Sarah’s case” and said that in “those” days they walked everywhere and that was how usual and normal life was then and she had followed him for love and her future life and found him through the road-making gang (perhaps a little extra poetic licence there, who knows!?) but a happy ending.  A few members re-read Pride and Prejudice having read this book and found they could link a few references between both.

So in conclusion, all felt this book with a hint of awareness of Pride and Prejudice stands on its own well with several threads running through it of equal importance dovetailing together neatly without the need  of an excess of  extra characters.  Several members felt there was enough unfinished ties and material to form a sequel!!

A film of Longbourn is due to be made which we all felt would work well and would definitely see.  So as is our usual practice what would we do with this book?

We would definitely keep it and possibly re-read it and all of us would recommend it to a friend.  A definite thumbs-up for this book.