The long-awaited Longbourn?
Last month brought the sad news that an eagerly awaited Austen adaptation – the Searchlight Pictures version of Persuasion, starring Sarah Snook – wouldn’t make it to the big screen after all.
As if to compensate disappointed Janeites, however, now there are signs that another long-gestating Austen-adjacent movie may be on its way to us.
Movie rumors materialized almost as soon as Jo Baker published her 2013 book Longbourn, a novel about the lives of the Bennet family’s servants, who hover on the margins of Pride and Prejudice. But I’d heard nothing more until last week, when the Irish magazine Hot Press published an interview with actress Agnes O’Casey. Among her upcoming roles, the magazine reported, “is the starring role as Sarah in Longbourne [sic].” And, indeed, Longbourn has its very own IMDB entry.
Unlike most Jane Austen spinoffs, Longbourn got the literary-fiction treatment: an initial hardback issue by a prestigious trade press, enthusiastic reviews in major media outlets, and a paperback release in due course. It’s a well-written and enjoyable book that deserved its laurels, but it’s also cannily commercial: a romance that scores progressive points about social class, built on the scaffolding of one of literature’s most famous stories of love across a class divide.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Longbourn has every chance of making an excellent movie. Assuming it doesn’t go the way of the Sarah Snook Persuasion.