I have no self-control whatsoever, and I accidentally blew through the rest of Longbourn yesterday. I really only meant to read one chapter, but I Just. Couldn't. Stop.
Rather than spoilerize the whole rest of the book for you—if you've found these posts even vaguely interest-piquing, you really, really should just pick it up because it's super in every way—I'll just wind this up with a few comments:
- Wow, Mr. Bennet. As has been previously discussed in the comments of some of my previous Longbourn posts, Mr. Bennet is... kind of a jerk. More than kind of. Did he marry below himself intellectually? Yes. Does he have anyone to blame for that but himself? No. I can understand being bitter and being unhappy, but the way that he takes it out on his wife—not to mention Mrs. Hill—makes me despise him. I really don't think I'll ever be able to read him with any measure of affection again: Baker added some layers of unlikable behavior to his character and past, sure, but the majority of it came from Austen's original. I just never really looked beyond the entertainment factor of his zingers before to consider the effect they'd have on the target of his "wit".
- The Hills. I was right about SO MANY THINGS! Due to Mrs. Hill's behavior towards and affection for James, I Had Suspicions about her past, and those Suspicions panned out, and the reveal was so well timed. (In addition to the realism and the period detail and the character development, I was so impressed by Baker's plotting: parallels to Pride and Prejudice abound, but they never feel contrived or obvious or unnatural.) I have such difficulty in understanding how Mrs. Hill didn't despise Mr. Bennet, especially—in addition to the way that he wronged her personally, though much of that is obviously heightened by my modern sensibilities—given her empathy and affection for Mrs. Bennet. The reveal about the comfort and trust behind the Hills' marriage did a lot to soften... well, everything, but especially Mr. Hill's storyline. It's nice that, given the era, he could find at least some measure of happiness.
- Mrs. Bennet. Oh, laudanum. That makes so much sense. And is so depressing. It's so easy to imagine Lydia eventually going in exactly the same direction, albeit for slightly different reasons.
- Wickham. Gross. I might need to re-watch Lost in Austen to regain some amount of affection for him.
- Ptolemy Bingley. He was the only character who got short shrift, which was really too bad: his background and history would make for some super plotting & psychology, and I'd have loved to get to know him better.
- I can imagine some readers having a hard time with Elizabeth and Darcy's not-exactly-happily-ever-after, but I A) found Lizzy's difficulty acclimating to her new life quite believable, B) reminded myself that this was all being filtered through Sarah's own unhappiness at Pemberley, and C) have confidence that Lizzy will find her footing eventually.
- POLLY! MARY! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! I loved what Baker did with them. LOVED. Poor old Mary, she deserved some happiness. Of the younger Bennet girls, she's the one I've always felt for.
- Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine. Oh, Mr. Collins. I do tend to feel bad for him in all of his awkwardness, and he seems so lost here. Lady Catherine, as always, is both hilarious and awful. I loved that Mr. Collins' servants live in just as much fear of her as he does.
- And finally, James and Sarah. The chapters that finally give us his backstory are BRUTAL. But they're also wonderful, in that they make his showdown with Wickham all the more wonderful: when you realize what James has been through, and then compare that to the cockiness of these young bucks in the Militia... well, no wonder that James has zero regard, time, or respect for them. I loved, too, how James and Sarah's stories paralleled each other, in that they both had to leave home to find it again.
Long story short: LOVED IT.
Man. Now I need a new grown-up book. Suggestions?