Reservoir 13 ~ by Jon McDonald  

It happened again!  I started listening to this and then at some point realized it is really quite good,  like meaningfully good.  Furthermore, I’m wasn’t  “getting it”  all.  So I stopped,  maybe 1/3 through,  and download the Kindle version.  I started over.

This book really ought to be read in some kind of text format for several reasons.   But because the paragraphs are long,  it’s also a good idea to listen.  I think listening and reading is probably best.   Warning –  every sentence is important in some way – the best of minimalist styling.

The story: (no spoilers)   On a New Year’s Eve,  sometime in the late 1970s,  Rebecca Shaw age 13  went missing from a very small and quiet English village where she and her parents stayed summers and holidays.  Although everyone turned out to look for the girl, and they looked everywhere,  she wasn’t found by nightfall of this cold day.   The police and media showed up and helicopters flew over the reservoirs and quarry while  divers went down and journalists took pictures.  There was no sign of Becky.  And then a day or so later it started snowing.  The rather remote village is a lonely kind of place where most of  the people know each other,  but tend to mind their own business –  even within families.

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*******
Reservoir 13
by Jon McDonald  (England) 
2017 / 304 pages
read by Matt Bates – 8h 48m
rating:  9 / psychological suspense
(Booker Prize Long List) 

*******

In February the police conducted a dramatization of a possible scenario for possible witnesses and reporters.  The police conducted more interviews.

By March she still hadn’t been found. Did she just vanish?  The girl’s mother was visited yet again.

Meanwhile the seasons change and life goes on with herons sloping and dances planned and the hawthorn coming out.  That,  essentially,  is what this book is about –  that and the grief process when there is no closure – when a grievous loss is unexplained.

Then she was sighted, by someone,  somewhere,  and a van was found.  A tipster showed up with a tale about the van.  But this is a quiet village and most folks don’t share all they know-  just some quiet speculative gossip maybe,  so the stress takes its own toll.

The suspense is sharp, at least at first,  but that’s part of the theme and I was hooked almost from the first sentence because McDonald is superb at his craft.  The landscape and seasonal changes are full and complete and mixed into paragraphs with many different characters telling this or that.  This creates a focus on the search for Becky but also of time passing – memories dimming,  life going on,  There are repeated passages like “Rebecca, Becky,  Bex,”  and “The clocks went forward and the evenings opened out.”   Time is passing,  suspense is building very slowly but deliberately.

There are some backstories in the beginning which add to the suspense in their own way,   bu there’s no foreshadowing.  And the suspense gets muted as the citizens of the town  adjust to this new reality, the new normal,  which never is really quite solid because Becky is still missing and nobody really knows how to talk about it.   Where could she have gone/  They’re all stuck in some phase of grief.

It was a cold night to have been out on the hill. She’s likely just hiding, people said. She’ll be down in a clough. Turned her ankle. She’ll be aiming to give her parents a fright. There was a lot of this. People just wanted to open their mouths and talk, and they didn’t much mind what came out. By first light the mist had cleared.  (Chapter 1) 

Although much of the narrative relates to the seasons and the landscape it’s just woven right into the middle of paragraphs because “life goes on” for everything – for the community as a whole including the environment.   This is mostly about a whole community and its response to tragedy and grief – the kind with no closure – and continuing to live their lives.

“As the dusk deepened over the badger sett at the far end of the woods, a rag-eared boar called out a sow … The woods were thick with the stink of wild garlic and the leaves gleamed darkly along the paths. Jackson’s boys went out to the fields and checked the sheep.”

About 40 characters are named in the first chapter and the narrative follows several  of them though the years.   There’s James,  who had known Becky better than most – he and his friends were in their very early teens when she disappeared.   And there is Sue and her husband Austin Cooper.  It’s interesting how many of the characters are caretakers in some way –  or they are in relationships which seem to be less than stable for some reason,  or they’re single widowed, divorced.   The unsolved mystery of Becky’s disappearance creates stress on almost everyone.

But many minor characters populate the story,  James’ friends  Sophie, Deepak  and Lynsey,  the vicar Jane Hughes,  Irene and her son Andrew,   Martin Fowler the butcher and his wife Ruth,  the Jackson boys,  the Hunter family,  Cathy and Brian Fletcher,  etc.   At first all are presented from quite a distance and we are informed about them through an unnamed omniscient narrator.   Over time, the distance shortens and we get to know many of the characters and follow their stories.

People sometimes have dreams about Becky or the idea of her missing will creep into their minds,  but they keep it quiet,  waiting maybe,  and mostly just tend to their own business.    And this brings us to Chapter 2 – (maybe page 40 or 45,  I’m listening)  so you know there are no spoilers above –  and Chapter 2 is New Year’s of the next year and so it goes.

McGregor’s creates enormous tension with a hugely atmospheric setting  and his minimalist but completely realistic styling.  The setting is a HUGE part of what makes this novel so excellent.   The natural landscape is described in simple straightforward language – and the landscape changes as the months go by and the reader is given something similar to town gossip, for instance,   “A lone man was seen staring into reservoir 8,”  or “It was known that Reverend Keep was talking to Rebecca’s parents.”  There are critters in the natural environment which are not neglected,  the beavers and bats and swallow and sheep all have their annual cyclical time frames,  their patterns.

But then life goes on and in just the same way as the seasons change,  people get on with the changes in their own lives –  kids grow up and there are funerals and weddings and divorces and births.   Adults drift apart and move,  the kids grow up and go to college.   Interest in Becky Shore diminishes,  but never really gets extinguished – it’s like the entire community is lacking closure.    Sometimes the investigators show up again, because the case remains open,   or there’s a memorial or someone says something but mostly  life just goes on. There’s this distinct feeling of time passing both quickly and slowly – like with the changes in a landscape or in a marriage and kids growing up. Patterns – lots of patterns –  time and patterns.

The tension which is so palpable in the beginning,  when Becky first goes missing,  is in large part replaced over time by tensions within the characters and their relationships and this is what builds on several fronts.  The individual sentences about various different things which happen in that particular time frame are all included in a single paragraph which gives the reader little snips of information one at a time which adds to the tension.

There is a fair amount of repetition as the years,  time is a huge theme,  goes around in its cycles.  Mention is made of “Rebecca, or Becky, or Bex.”  The well-dressing ceremony comes and goes,  along with everything else. in a year.

In this ongoing and bit-by-bit character development  and plot lines there are clues as to what might have happened to Becky –  who might have done something, or the reader thinks there may be.  And there is occasional work on the reservoirs so whenever that comes up the reader really thinks perhaps Becky’s body will be found.  -The underlying fears the characters must feel when their loved ones don’t show up on time is thick,  even with no mention of it from the author.  Psychological suspense.

McGregor is good and I’m feeling a sense that I might get his first book,  If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things.  

 

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Evicted:~ by Matthew Desmond

Chosen by the All-nonfiction Group as the selection for March,  I likely would  have passed on this book because,  although I’m interested in the subject,  i feel kind of burned out on reading bad stuff about life in the US.  That said,  the book received many important awards and accolades including the Pulitzer Prize.

I’ve personally lived and worked among people who get evicted and move and end up in shelters and jail,  who have to choose between a jacket for the child or medicine for grandma.    I’ve dealt with them for over 25 years as their social worker and as their child’s school teacher.  I know there are many,  many good people stuck in tough situations where folks who are not so good take advantage of them or simply can’t help.  Bless them and bless the ones who do (including Matthew Desmond).  I’m fully aware that my experience may have colored my review.

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******
Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in the American City
by Matthew Desmond
2017 / 448 pages
read by Dion Graham – 11h 10m
rating:  8/  nonfiction – current events (policy analysis?) 
(both read and listened) 
******

The book was pretty much as I expected.  It’s basically the sad (heartbreaking, really) stories of several lower class families or individuals in the city of  Milwaukee,  Wisconsin juxtaposed with the story of one of their landlords.  The problems seem overwhelming  and beyond the ability of any one person or agency or group to fix.  Meanwhile,  however,  some of them are in the position of making a profit off of the situation and they don’t really want it fixed.  The landlords are stuck in the middle and although they sometimes  try to help the individual tenants their underlying motive is the profit part of the story while the motive of the tenants is survival.

The ultimate point of the book is to encourage the use of a “voucher” system of housing for the poor ensuring that all who want it are able to have a home.   Desmond doesn’t get to this until the last chapter – the Epilogue,  actually.    That point is certainly not set out in the Prologue which is set at the beginning of Arleen’s story with authorial comments interspersed along the way.

What happens to the tenants when the city powers decide to shut down a trailer park  which is plagued with drugs and prostitution?  We’re never told how large this place is – 10 units,  200?  Most of the residents are already strapped between utility bills and still can’t pay for their medicines,  to say nothing of back-rent and family funeral expenses.    Some landlords know exactly what the profit lines are – when to help and when to evict.

The people Desmond follows are black and white,  single and “married,”  of various ages and with children or without.  The black women with children have it roughest – the single white male probably the easiest.

I wonder about the “nonfiction” aspect.  I wonder how honest Desmond is being about the alcohol, tobacco, pets, drugs and crime (including domestic violence) in his “memoir” (which is really what it turns out to be as discovered in the Epilogue and “About This Project” sections.

The bulk of the book follows eight families as they get evicted and try to find alternative housing  when the whole system seems set up to thwart them.  It includes a lot of blow-by-blow action with dialogue as remembered I suppose as the research was done by living side-by-side with them for awhile and doing interviews.  The narrative is probably quite “creative” with the dialogues.  (NOT saying it’s not all basically true.)

It’s a shame the US is such a disaster when it comes to providing health, education and welfare for its citizens (and non-).  That is truly tragic.  Other countries seem to do a lot better –  I don’t know if I see vouchers as being the answer, but there are certainly alternatives which would improve the situation.   We can’t even get  half the homeless shelters we need in L.A.  It’s about making the middle class pay more taxes when they’re strapped between good schools and insurance and “getting ahead.”     It’s a given that the rich will create loopholes in whatever tax law is passed – or maintain off-shore accounts.

In the housing issue,  I’m blaming neither landlord nor tenant for the issues (non-payment of absurdly high rents or upkeep of dilapidated units plus mortgages and seriously objectionable neighbors/tenants).  But I don’t think scamming the system and trying to get by or being disorderly is likely to stop no matter what “system” is put in place.

Bottom line I suppose it’s a very eye-opening book for those who don’t know the way it is for people who are always on the verge of being evicted and having their entire lives up-rooted.   It’s interesting.

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Kristin Lavransdatter: The Trilogy ~ by Sigrid Undset

This incredible classic was on sale (I still can’t believe that!)  and I snatched it up because although I’d read the first volume of the trilogy,  The Wreath,  I wanted to reread it and continiue with the whole thing.   I have the Tina Nunnally translation –  the newer one,  the better one,  the one which has the whole book including light (to us) sex scenes.  (see criticisms below ) and the one which is translated using the style Undset used –  plain old realist lit ala

It is vital to read these books in order because they consist of one chronological story line through the ages and there is no back story repetition as we find in today’s series books.

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*******
Kristin Lavransdatter:  
1. The Wreath; 2.  The Wife:  3. The Cross 
by Sigrid Undset
1921 – 1925 /  1168 pages
read by Erin Bennett  – 44h 59m
(read and listened)
*******

First published in the early 1920s,  the trilogy of  Kristin Lavransdatter by Ingrid Undset was the main reason the Norwegian  author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1928. Undset was the daughter of a Norwegian archeologist and grew up learning and living with the history which she pursued obsessively as an adult.  The trilogy takes place in central Norway of the 13th century and the historical accuracy is usually given as the reason for the Nobel Prize as well as the fact they continue to be published classics.

The Nobel Prize in Literature 1928 was awarded to Sigrid Undset “principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages”.
https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1928/

This is NOT the romantic medieval literature of the actual middle ages like King Arthur or like the rough-and-tumble narratives of the old Norse sagas.   This is very much in the tradition of 20th century realism  with extraordinary historical accuracy.

The Wreath – (Book I)  – Kristin Lavransdatter is a young woman living in 14th century central Norway who was raised in a very loving and devout home (Norway was Christianized in about 1000 and it spread rather rapidly but mixed with the old superstitions for a long time.)  She was betrothed to a wonderful man,  but showing her willfulness and  immaturity fell in love with a rich scoundrel.  Her father was so upset he sent her to a convent where she learned a lot but never really “reformed”  as that wasn’t in her nature.   She returned home and …  well ….she does what she wants – that’s a part of her very character.

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A stone kirke (church) near Jahren-(my photo) – probably 14th century

In The Wife (Book II)  and The Cross (Book III)  the story goes through the next several decades with essentially the same characters plus Kristin’s sons and new friends as she matures and ages.   Their lives entangle in a multitude of episodes until Kristin’s last days.  There is a lot of death in the second and third books.   I won’t go through the overarching plots because the premise of  The Wife would be a spoiler in itself.  The actual plot line does have a certain soap-operaish feel to it.

It’s basically an incredible domestic drama with some politics thrown in.   There are a   lot of characters involved and tragic twists based on the human condition.  What really gives the novels power and life are two-fold –   first there’s  the character and nature of Kristin herself,  and second there’s the accurate and detailed historical element of the setting which is naturally woven in almost organically,  as a natural part of the whole.

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An old home place in south-central Norway – 19th century.  

I imagine it would be hard to write a book with this much historical research.  The author would have to keep it from “showing” and overshadowing other elements like character development and plot.  Undset always works her knowledge to best effect,  masterfully.

Also problematical for authors of historical fiction is that the if protagonist is a historically accurate depiction of a typical person of that era, a contemporary reader might very well find it difficult to sympathize.   On the other hand if the lead characters are not “typical” in their attitudes the book might lose some authenticity.  I think Undset bridged that divide wonderfully well – Kristin is not typical – she’s of the upper classes and a beloved child of good parents. (I’d imagine there were plenty of willful and rebellious girls in medieval Norway.)

The idea that God as well as the Church and its priests

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Inside the old Kirke – 

were of highest importance to Kristin and her family is emphasized  as well as the dress, food,  personal names and servant positions of the times.  Throughout all three books this attention to detail never lets up.

The superstitions which still abound even a couple centuries after Christianity was introduced  are fascinating and in contrast,  but not in conflict,  with the dictums of the Catholic Church.  That said,  the trilogy is chock full of drama what with  quite a lot of sex between various couples,  married to each other or not,  lying, fighting,  and murdering while floods rampage and churches burn.  This is the stuff of life and death,  love and honor.

Although Kristin is devout she battles guilt her entire life because she has a temperament which defies control and she has to pay the consequences.   To me it gets a bit morbid.  But still she can’t quite change her ways.  She’s a very  determined woman and she pays a price.  This is a really devout woman who lives in a real physical body in a very real and often sinful world.

The language is plain in both Norwegian and English – that was the “realist” style of the times which was popular and Undset adopted in keeping with other authors of the times.  Very strong character development is also emphasized in realist fiction.  Tiina Nunnally’s 1997 translation is supposedly excellent (I wouldn’t know).

Reading the books in the 21st century it’s hard NOT to see a feminist reading whether Undset meant it that way or not.  Whatever it is in the feminist canon it’s rather dated with the heroine  The protagonist is a strong,  devout yet risk-taking woman who has to live under the domination first of her father and then her husband.   She has a lot of physical labor,  emotional difficulties and family issues while the religious-social constraints are huge.

** Criticism:  ” Kristin Lavransdatter was notable and to some extent controversial in its time for its explicit characterization of sex in general and female sexuality in particular; and its treatment of morally ambiguous situations.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristin_Lavransdatter

Slate Review: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2017/01/why_sigrid_undset_author_of_the_kristin_lavransdatter_trilogy_should_be.html

Penguin-Random House
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/297272/kristin-lavransdatter-by-sigrid-undset/9780143039167/readers-guide/

Scholars and Rogues Review:
https://scholarsandrogues.com/2015/04/12/sigrid-undset-and-the-art-of-storytelling-kristin-lavransdatter-i-the-wreath/

Crisis:  A View for the Catholic Laity:
https://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/death-kristin-lavransdatter

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Murder on Astor Place ~ by Victoria Thompson

I read this for the 4-Mystery Addicts reading group and it’s a book I would never have picked up on my own,  but it was pretty good.   Fwiw,  I’m getting kind of tired of reading about women in trouble though –  about their lives of hardship and pain and so on.  They always seem to be victims of something –  even the “strong” women due it against sexist adversity.

Although Thompson is usually considered to be a writer of “cozy”  mysteries,  this one gets quite gritty and sordid  in subject matter.   With “cozies”  crimes don’t  actually happen in the narrative.  They virtually always in the past or off-stage,  so to speak,  with the story line following the efforts of the detectives after  the fact.  Another thing is there’s also an amateur detective as well as a police presence somewhere.   Murder on Astor Place fits.

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*******
Murder on Astor Place
by Victoria Thompson 
2015 / 288 pages
read by Callie Beaulieu –  8h 32m
rating:  B+ /  historical-procedural
Gaslight Mysteries #1 

*******

We’re in  New York circa 1895-96 and the papers are full of Teddy Roosevelt as Police Commissioner.  This was the height of the Gilded Age which,  although I’ve read better descriptions of it and some novelists work it into the story better,  Thompson uses quite well and is placed  front and center to the main plot –  probably the plots of all the novels in the series.
https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/History_of_New_York_State/Gilded_Age_New_York_State

This is the first in a series so I expected some good character development for the lead detectives in order to set up an over-arching plot.  There is that –  Sarah Brandt, our amateur detective is a midwife by trade but that’s illegal in the city at the time so she’s not exactly a fan of the police.  Sarah is

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“Petit Chateau” Vanderbilt Mansion at 660 Fifth Avenue. It was built in 1882 and served as an influential example for other Gilded Age mansions, while also demonstrating the visual outpouring of wealth.

the widow of a murder victim and she’s .estranged from her prominent family.

One night while delivering a baby,  she discovers the body of a 16-year old girl.  This turns out to be the sister of a past friend.  The girl  had been strangled.  Sarah  starts doing a bit of investigation of her own.

This activity brings her into contact with Police Detective Frank Malloy who is a  good at his job.  He fears for Sarah’s safety and rather resents her interference.

It turns out Alicia VanDamm, the deceased,  was the daughter of very prominent couple,  Cornelius and Felicia VanDamm –  and Alicia was pregnant.  And then it turns out the Russian midwife is also dead.  The tale goes on.  There are a few family members and servants and gossipy society ladies to investigate and interview.  Also,  there’s an underlying hint of a possible romance between Sarah and Frank.

The historical part is light although Thompson certainly did some research – sometimes it shows,  sometimes not.  The New York police department of the era was notably corrupt  and Roosevelt took some measures although he and his faction tooted his own more than was probably deserved.    Thompson has an extensive oeuvre with romance and mystery series going back to 1985.

Bottom line –  I did enjoy the lead characters of Sarah and Frank,  the mystery was good enough with a few twists,  the history was light but accurate – and sometimes  new –  for instance Astor Place is a real street,  very short,  located in Lower Manhattan.   I’d like to find time to read Book 2,  Murder on St. Mark’s Place,  but …  we’ll see.

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Rules of Civility ~ by Amor Towles

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I read A Gentleman in Moscow (2016) a couple years ago.   That was such a brilliant book it just spun my head as it warmed my heart.  (I gave it a 9.5 and read it twice.) –    So I nominated it as a group read at the Modern Fiction Group. (Yes  I did.)

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*******
Rules of Civility 
by Amor Towles
2011 / 368 pages
read by Rebecca Lowman – 12h  3m
rating:   8  / historical fiction –   
*******

Sad to say I as totally bored for the first third or so and then off and on through the book.   There’s just this somewhat lost young woman trying to make her way in the Big City of New York (she was born in Brighton Beach – an immigrant Russian community in southern Brooklyn),  with a  a roommate who happens to be the daughter of a rich couple trying to make it on her own and that’s how she met her society boyfriend.   Our bookish 1st person protagonist has a truly dull job as a typist in a law firm typing pool,  but she does her best with it and that changes –  everything changes.

The Prologue takes place in the 1960s when Katey Kontent (pronounced “con-TENT”),  is visiting a New York museum with her husband where she sees a displayed photograph which includes the image of a very old close friend,  Tinker Grey,  who does not look like the  rich and handsome banker he had been.   Her mind goes back to the year 1938,  when that friendship started,  what it meant to her,  and how it ended.

Of course that means the themes of memory and reliability are worked in along with  love and honor and desire,  a lot of desire.

The bulk of the narrative takes place between January 1,  1938 and December 31,  1938 which is presented complete with the stuff of  the era –  the architecture, including skyscrapers,  and  the music  the movies, the nightclubs and dancing plus the arts and fashions and various levels of society from high to low.  There’s also a lot of smoking, drinking and some talk of the Spanish Civil War.  Katey reads a lot of Dickens and others but she gobbles down the Agatha Christies.

The first 1/3 makes for some rather boring reading,  but on consideration it’s all necessary to understand the complete change Katey’s life takes due to that friendship and it’s aftermath.  It’s necessary to get to know Katey’s  humor and her bookish ways as well as where she came from –   The title of Towles’ novel comes from a book by the young George Washington and it’s referred to more than once,  with meaning.  

Then finally,  at the end of Chapter 12 (maybe 120 pages in), Katey makes a what seems like a rather small decision but it’s really a change which almost immediately impacts the whole trajectory of her life (and the plot).  I was hooked.   The bookish but also card-playing and cigarette smoking Katey is catapulted into the upper tiers of New York literary and cafe society, their clubs and parties,  their individual lives,  their friends and their habits – circa 1938.  Overall it was pretty good story but having read A Gentleman in Moscow I was somewhat disappointed.

http://www.amortowles.com/rules-civility-timeline-contexts/

 

 

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Longbourn ~ by Jo Baker

I’m as much a fan of Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen – 1813)  as most moderately well-read folks,  probably –   it’s a great book,  funny and very insightful as well as being nicely-written and it’s definitely stood the test of time.  Furthermore it’s like a bird’s eye view of the times – to a limited extent.

What we have here in Jo Baker’s Longbourn is a take-off or a spin on Austen’s story and I likely never would have read it on my own but this was a group selection. Yes,  gentle reader,  I did enjoy it.

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*******

Longbourn
by Jo Baker
2013/ 331 pages
read by Emma Fielding – 13h 31m
rating:  8.75 / historical fiction 
****

It’s a very good book on it’s own but I think it’s better if you’re quite familiar with Pride and Prejudice because what happens in Longbourn is happening simultaneously with what goes on in Pride and Prejudice.

For those who don’t know or remember –  Longbourn is the multi-famiiy estate where the Bennetts of Pride and Prejudice,  live but which will be given over on the death of Mr Bennett  to a cousin,  a clergyman named Mr Collins.  Such were the laws of inheritance by “entailment.”

So the good Mr and Mrs Bennett are mainly concerned with finding “eligible” (rich) husbands for their five daughters ages 16 to 21.   But when an eligible  bachelor moves in nearby and brings a friend who is even more eligible,  the situation becomes interesting.   There are several men available, but their either not quite satisfactory in terms of of appearances and getting the girls “properly” provided for – and of concern to the young women it’s for love as well.     That’s the take-off point of Pride and Prejudice.

Meanwhile,  the stories which are NOT told in Austen’s book are those of the servants.  As the Bennett story getting marriages going unfolds “upstairs,”  the “downstairs” crew is having it’s own problems because just as  there’s a new man or two for the Bennett girls,  there’s also a new man-servant  added to the staff to help with household duties – a rather mysterious man named … um … James Smith.

Sarah,  our young protagonist,  is a maid in the Barrett household, working out fairly well under Mrs Hill,  but thinking about the new man as the situations in the Bennett family develop,   If Collins gets Longbourn, how will it be to work under a new owner?   And who are these rich young men,  Charles Bingley,  Fitzwilliam Darcy and George Wickham?

Meanwhile,  the military plays a huge part in Baker’s book (there was a war going on!) and several 21st century concerns are addressed,  racism,  sex and sexuality, the idea of servitude,  etc.  These things are not even touched in the Austen book.

Rather than look up any other Austen re-creations or sequels or what have you (Zombie books) I’ll likely try another one of Baker’s.

 

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Pride and Prejudice ~ by Jane Austen

Oh my –  I started reading Longbourn by Jo Baker  –  it’s a 21st century take-off of Pride and Prejudice and goes through the same events except from the point of view of the servants.   I figured I could probably get through it with only my memories of the book which are probably 20 years old.  I reviewed a summary but …

When I got to where Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth Barrett I had to do it –  Yes,  gentle reader,  I got a new copy of Pride and Prejudice in both Kindle and Audio formats – ridiculously cheap  – and promptly started reading.

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*******
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
1813 / 254 pages
read by Rosamund Pike – 11h 35m
rating:  10 / classic of classics 
(read and listened)
*******

Oh yes, (sigh)  I remember most of what “happens,”  but Austen’s humor is always so sly and delightful and her insights so on the mark.

On the prejudice side it’s a satire concerning the hypocrisy  (manners, actually) of society at the times.  On the pride side it’s about the way people really feel inside.  (Although Darcy is turned inside-out at those times when he looks so bad while he is doing what is right.)  That inside/outside analysis of the title in relation to the narrative  might not be exactly right at all but it’s mine –  even if someone somewhere has said it before.  (I don’t know.)

I won’t go into the whole story of how  Mr and Mrs Barrett, a couple of very middling means and up-scale desires (especially on mom’s part),  need to get their 5 daughters properly married off in order they may be provided for properly.   Elizabeth,  the intelligent,  quick-witted second-eldest, is the protagonist and the one who thinks for herself.  It gets quite complex and imo, each development of any character and every plot twist deserve all the study that’s been done on them.  It’s a masterpiece.

I know why the nay-sayers dislike it –  it’s narrow in scope because what about the problems in France and elsewhere?  What about society as a whole?   Is this marriage and money business all there is to life?  –  Pish I say –  laugh and look inward and  enjoy it for what it is.

For me,  I loved it again and imo,  Jane Austen produced one of the most remarkable English novels ever written,   If you haven’t read this book,  get thee hence and remedy that.  Now.

Historical context:  https://www.college.columbia.edu/core/node/1765

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