by Jo Baker
Framed in the events of Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn follows Sarah, a maid in the Bennet’s household. Sarah works hard, cooking, washing, cleaning, and sewing, and when she has a spare moment, she dreams of getting out to see a little bit more of the wide world. It’s not likely, but that makes it a sweeter dream. When a new manservant is hired who appears to have come quite a ways to work for Mr. Bennet, she’s excited for what stories he might bring, then disappointed and frustrated by his secrets. Day by day, she attempts to get past them, and find a future for herself.
My father and I listened to this book on our long drive across country. I had heard about it months ago, and filed it away as a book that I was interested in, but wasn’t sure if it would be a good fit for me, since I’m a big fan of Austen movies, but haven’t been able to get through more than one of her books. I shouldn’t have been worried. The book was a little slow to start, but once it gained momentum, I couldn’t help wanting to run away with all the characters.
I would highly advise this book to anyone who likes period dramas, who is willing to see our beloved Bennets in a slightly different light, and who is perfectly okay with hating Mr. Wickham just a little more.
The World That Forgot How to Dance
by Olivia Berrier
You meet the most interesting people in prison. Ellsie learns just how interesting they can be, when she ends up locked away for a few days after a botched spell. The man across from her has been in his cell for a very long time, and has more secrets than she can pry out in the short time she has. He might even know why her spell went wrong.
I went to school with Olivia Berrier. We took Ancient Greek together, and shared a love of Tolkien. Since our school was so full of writers, I’ve been enjoying keep an eye on newly published books in the hopes of seeing their names. I bought this one instantly, upon seeing the familiar name.
My one complaint was in the brevity of the story. There was a lot of story packed into what pages there were, and there was more than one place where I would have liked a little time to breathe. The passage of time, as Ellsie learns to work magic through new dances, and uncovers secret histories, feels too tight, though the speed of the writing is beautifully used in the opening and the closing of the story. I was immediately hooked and the beginning, and satisfied by the ending.
Berrier’s style is light and imaginative. The characters are pleasant people to spend time. The system of magic was clearly created with an admiring and delighted hand.
It’s a quick read and it’s worth picking up.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman
Coming back to your childhood home, always stirs up a lot of old memories. For the main character of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, it does a little more than that, and brings back that time he wandered into another world as a boy, and the heart-breaking things that happened when he accidentally brought a piece of it back with him.
This was my first Gaiman novel. I had tried to get into both Stardust, and Neverwhere and didn’t get very far. I will admit that I read this book with the goal of finally being able to check off that box, so that the next time someone learns that I have a degree in English they won’t be so shocked by the lack. However, I’m not likely to go running off to find his other novels.
The writing was beautiful, perfectly fit with both the innocence and clarity of childhood. The immediacy of the aches and joys was admirable, and I enjoyed the play on the magic of Maiden, Mother, and Crone mythology. It was the sort of book that I would have been pleased to encounter in my academic career, but doesn’t actually do much for me on a personal level.
I’m a little sad that I am not a fresh convert to Gaiman-ism, but I’m not overly surprised. Books are not one-size-fits-all.