Longbourn: Pride and Prejudice – the servants’ story

Loungbourn HB cover

Longbourn is one of those books that pulls you in, little by little, until you are truly captivated by its storytelling. Once you reach the final pages you are sad to say goodbye to the characters whose lives you have followed but, unlike many stories where there is a gaping void left by the ending, the finish here is satisfying and natural.

This is the story of the servants of the Bennet household, the ones who move silently through the pages of Pride and Prejudice, unseen but for the few glimpses that Austen gave us in her novel. As the story unfurls we meet Mr and Mrs Hill, the butler and housekeeper, and the maids Polly and Sarah. We are thrown into the lives of servants during the Regency era, a time when war threatened and officers dressed in red turned the heads of the young ladies.

Jo Baker doesn’t glamorise life at the turn of the C19th, instead she brings us the lives of ordinary people in service. We brush shoulders with Mr & Mrs Bennet and their girls, but through the eyes of Sarah the housemaid… who runs their errands, sees to their washing and helps keep the household running in a way befitting the minor gentry of the time.

This is a clever book, Jo Baker takes us through the story written by Austen, but with the emphasis on the servants… the story runs parallel with that of Elizabeth Bennet. While Elizabeth’s romance is bound together with her sister Jane’s love for Bingley and Lydia’s elopement with the dastardly Wickham, downstairs Sarah’s life is opened to romance and intrigue to rival that of her employers.

I won’t tell you the story, I will leave you to find that out for yourself, but what I will say is that having read the book you will never read (or watch) Pride and Prejudice in quite the same way again. Where P.D. James extended the story with the excellent Death at Pemberley, Longbourn adds another dimension to one of the best loved novels ever written. It was a bold move, to write such a book and get it wrong would have been all too easy… but Baker got it right. So right in fact that the book will now sit on my bookshelf nestled next to Austen’s original.

Jo Baker ©Ed Marshall Camera Press London

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn is available in hardback from Doubleday in August 2013

Economy Driven – cheapest isn’t always best

You’ve got a dilemma.

question mark

You have a project, there’s a budget, it’s quite small, but you need the job doing properly. What do you do?

Does this sound familiar…

  1. You get your copy written – a book (that took months of your life), a journal (that you hope to get out on time), an academic paper (that you hope gets accepted), a business brochure (to impress potential clients)… *insert wordy creation of your choice here*
  2. You realise, your line manager or your publisher tells you, that you need to hire an editor / proofreader / indexer.
  3. You don’t have a clue where to find one, then after finding a suitable pool of talent (the CIEP or the Society of Indexers, for example) you approach people for a quote.
  4. You sit back and wait for the quotes to roll in…
  5. Then accept the lowest quote and relax.

That’s all well and good, but how do you know that you are getting the best for your money? Are you going for the cheapest rather than the best or most appropriate?

There’s an old adage that you get what you pay for. But when money is tight why should you fork out when someone else is quoting a pound a page?

Well… I certainly couldn’t work for a pound a page.

The fact is, different jobs need different skills and when you are looking for someone to work on your material you should take the time to make sure that they are trained for the job, and are using their skills in a way best suited to your needs. For example… are you hiring an editor or someone who will just “style” your document in Word, quickly run a spell check over your document and charge you for the privilege? Are you hiring a trained proofreader or someone who will just pick out the odd spelling mistake?

You wouldn’t trust your children with an untrained childminder, or take your car to an unqualified mechanic would you? Why should your publications or business documentation be any different?

money money money

I’m not saying that the cheapest won’t necessarily be fit for your purpose, sometimes it is, but when thinking things through, once the quotes have come in, keep the following in mind:

How many pages does your document consist of and what type of work needs to be done on it?

If your book comes to 200 pages and you are offered a quote of £200 look closely at how many pages per hour that may work out at… to edit a book at 10 pages an hour (remember, that’s one page every 6 minutes) is only feasible if the edit is really light or the work is nearly perfect. Take time to really think through what needs to be done. Keep in mind that although the book is 200 pages there may be time to add on for admin / time for the editor to ask questions and get them sorted out etc.

How much training has the editor / proofreader / indexer had?

You will be hiring a trained professional, can they give you evidence of their training? I’m not saying that you should ask to see their certificates, but never be afraid to ask what their qualifications are. Are they members of a professional society?

Don’t be afraid to take on newly qualified professionals.

They may have just qualified, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t good. They may have oodles of experience in your subject field, but have just started to diversify. This doesn’t mean they will be cheap, but they may be slightly cheaper. Everyone needs to build up their portfolio.

Does the editor / proofreader / indexer understand your subject?

While you are paying for a professional to work on your stuff, make sure they understand your subject. If you find that the quote seems on the cheap side, and your work is academic in nature, or not for general readership, it may be that they are not a subject specialist.

You will pay more for a specialist. However, if you are prepared to hire someone with less experience in your field you may be able to negotiate a cheaper rate. I’m not saying hire an geography major to edit your highly technical physics academic paper, but if the work isn’t too technical someone who is less of a specialist may quote slightly cheaper for you.

Don’t be afraid to ask.

If a quote comes back high, ask what is included. Are you paying for a specialist, a different level of editing (what you think needs doing may not be what the professional editor sees as needing doing), or is there a tight deadline?

If the quote comes through low, again ask. It may be that the editor / indexer / proofreader really likes your work and wants to be part of it, may be building their portfolio, can fit it in easily with their schedule or is a “whizz at this type of thing”. They may even have misquoted (it happens sometimes), or may have no qualifications at all.

jar of money

In these days of no money, we all have to be careful. But it also true, that you get what you pay for. If a quote seems too good to be true, then it probably is. But if you find that the perfect fit for your project is just outside of your budget, why not ask?

You get what you pay for, but there’s also the old saying… “don’t ask, don’t get”

Lost in the Crowd

There are so many social and blogging platforms floating out here in the intertubes.

It’s like looking down from one of those stunt helicopters flying overhead at Wembley Stadium, when the stadium is full to the brim of people, and trying to find your friend in the crowd. The friend with the beers and the cheery smile.

File:Take That Wembley.jpg
(c) Adam Raoof http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamraoof/3689497647/

And that’s only Twitter! There’s another hundred-odd stadiums, one for each social platform, each linked by a gangway, probably strewn with cans and with chewing-gum gloop on the floor, and the odd drunk loitering in the shadows.

But a select few know that there are subterranean tunnels which can transport you to the stadium of your choice, on fluffy pillows with complimentary goodies and a tour guide if you need it. And a concierge who will find your friend for you, and lead you to him (Ok, I’m being metaphorical here people).

Interconnected stadiums
Lots of stadiums, viewed from a metaphorical helicopter… complete with a bungee cord and a stuntman dressed as the Queen

Are you one of those select few? Or are you one of those millions who wander aimlessly, jostling in the throng trying to find your mate with the beer, then getting gum on your shoes when you try to migrate?

So what’s the secret of being one of the select few I hear you cry?

Well, from what I can tell, peering out from the doors of the helicopter, circling above… the secret is… being passionate and being friendly, and being willing to learn.


I know… it seems kind of lame doesn’t it.

Friendly – but they’re laughing at us you know


But you have a look around, and the people that do best in Social Media seem to be the ones who are passionate about what they do, know where they should be and are friendly with it. The ones who are just there to make noise eventually get lost in the crowd… the others in the stadium realise they are out for themselves and stop sharing with them. They may have a stadium full of followers, but they rarely listen or interact with them. Sometimes the ones who shout loudest are unveiled to be full of hot air and eventually deflate.

The friendly ones get help to move from one stadium to the other or know intuitively where they should be, their passion follows them, as do their friends and they are eventually easy to find. They move from stadium to stadium on those fluffy pillows with an entourage of friends and followers. They are often the ones with the words of wisdom, whispered quietly to those around, but their word spreads.

So, in the stadiums of the Social, seek out those who aren’t shouting, the ones who are passionate and the ones who are genuinely knowledgeable. When you want to migrate from one place to another, follow their lead and talk to their friends.

Be one of those select few*…

*and if you don’t know any of the select few, follow some of the big guys for a while as you learn.

         Social Media Today

        The Hootsuite blog


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