Jo Baker’s LONGBOURN To Be Published This Fall by Transworld, Knopf, and Random House Canada;
Film Rights Acquired by Random House Studio and Focus Features
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 by Transworld in the UK; Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S.; and Random House in Canada. Film rights were snapped up by Random House Studio and Focus Features, and translation rights have already been sold in Spain, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Brazil, France, and Sweden.
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.
“Jane Austen was my first experience of grown-up literature,” Baker said. “But as I read and re-read her books, I began to become aware that if I’d been living at the time, I wouldn’t have got to go to the ball; I would have been stuck at home with the sewing. Just a few generations back, my family were in service. Aware of that English class thing, Pride and Prejudice begins to read a little differently.”
Marianne Velmans, who acquired British and Commonwealth rights to LONGBOURN, described the pitch – “Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ point of view” – as irresistible. “I raced through the novel in one sitting,” she said. “I found Baker had written a beautiful, stylish, moving and totally compelling book which, while faithful to Austen, presents a completely original love story against the harsh backdrop of working people’s lives in Regency England.”
“It’s a stunning achievement,” says Diana Coglianese, who will edit the book for Knopf. “While LONGBOURN brings to life a different side of the world Austen first created, I was impressed even more by the way this novel stands as a transporting, fully realized work of fiction in its own right.”
“Jo Baker has lovingly written a gorgeous novel that opens up a whole new world,” says Canadian Publisher Louise Dennys. “She brings alive the intimate, often hard ‘downstairs’ life that underpins the genteel world of the Bennets. Baker’s clear-eyed perspective on the five Bennet girls and Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, on the affairs going on behind the scenes, and on the Napoleonic Wars that bring the military to town, will entrance readers everywhere. “
Focus Features CEO James Schamus said, “Jo Baker fully inhabits the lives of her characters – and in LONGBOURN, they are ones who previously existed in the background only. By compellingly exploring new avenues in the world of Pride and Prejudice she has fashioned a tale of a caliber that filmmakers dream about. We are delighted to be partnering again with our friends and colleagues at Random House Studio to co-finance and produce what will be a highly anticipated motion picture for audiences worldwide.”
Random House Studio President Peter Gethers said, “This is one of the most exciting projects that has come along since we began our partnership with Focus. It’s rare to see a wonderful novel that screams out to us – in a genteel, Austen-like way, of course – that it needs to be made into an equally wonderful film. We were thrilled to be able to move so quickly and delighted to partner with various Random House companies here and around the world as we bring LONGBOURN to the screen.”
Jo Baker was born in Lancashire and educated at Oxford University and Queen’s University Belfast. Her previous novels include Offcomer, The Mermaid’s Child, The Telling, and The Undertow (in the UK this book was titled The Picture Book). She lives in Lancaster.
The author is represented by Clare Alexander; U.S. rights were handled by Anna Stein and film rights by Lesley Thorne, all of Aitken Alexander Associates.
Alfred A. Knopf is the flagship imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, which is a division of Random House, Inc., whose parent company is Bertelsmann AG, the international media company. For more information about Alfred A. Knopf, visit the website http://www.aaknopf.com.
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