I’m sure that many reviews of Jo Baker’s Longbourn begin like this, but I’ll say it anyway: I don’t usually read Jane Austen sequels. Or prequels. Or indeed anything ‘inspired by’, ‘in the style of’, or ‘after’ Jane Austen. In fact, many years ago now I declared my household a ‘Jane Austen Sequel-Free Zone’, a new development my family had no trouble getting behind on account of them not really caring about Jane Austen at all (it’s tough, but with family you have to love them for all their qualities, good and bad).
The reason behind this strict ruling is simple. I admire Jane Austen. I admire her as a writer, and in particular as a comic writer of incredible skill and subtlety.