Jane Austen has been dead for close to 200 years, but it's hard to imagine she's gotten much rest in her grave in Westminster Abbey, what with all the rewrites, updates and zombifications of her work. We get it: her books are much beloved, and readers enjoy encountering them again and again, and anew.
Similarly, "Downton Abbey" has spread through the culture like well-attired kudzu. There are Downton books, Downton-esque fashions, and heaps of Downton-era stories of the upper-class and lower-class living in close proximity in the grand houses of England.
So perhaps it was inevitable that we should be treated to a book that tells " 'Pride and Prejudice' from the servants' perspective." Maybe the real question is, Why did it take so long?
The book will be published simultaneously in the U.S. by Knopf, Transworld in the UK and Random House in Canada. From the Knopf news release:
"A British writer with a passion for Jane Austen has written a new novel based on 'Pride and Prejudice' -- but told from the point of view of the servants at the Bennet family estate. The novel, 'Longbourn' by Jo Baker, was acquired in a series of pre-empts and will be published this fall....
" 'Longbourn' will reveal what Jane Austen did not: the constant chaos swirling downstairs, the preparation for lavish balls, the housekeeper’s real thoughts about the family patriarch. But it will also reveal the tragic consequences of the Napoleonic Wars and focus on a romance between a newly arrived footman and a housemaid, the novel's main characters."
A romance between a newly arrived footman and a housemaid? Not exactly original, is it? What do you think Bates and Anna would say?
"Longbourn" won't rest between the pages for long. It's already been acquired by Focus Features.