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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2014

Book Reviews Robert R. Kracke BOOK REVIEWS SEQUELS: ENGLAND AND ITALY, FICTION AND FACT LONGBOURN, a novel By Jo Baker Vintage Books: Random House, NY 2013, 332 pgs. If you liked Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and if you liked Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs, then this is your English cup of tea. After a lady friend read this book, she handed it to this reviewer and asked, “Aren’t there laws against plagiarism?” The answer was, “Not if it’s in the public domain.” Of course, copyright law and the public domain is a slippery slope. This reviewer has confirmed that Pride and Prejudice is in the public domain though many other antiquated novels are not. Be that as it may, Longbourn is highbrow beach reading at its best. It is historical fiction which fleshes out Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by taking a look at the back stairs and the butlers, cooks, maids and coachmen who are not mentioned in Pride and Prejudice and thereby creating fascinating historical fiction concerning them as well as the original characters of Pride and Prejudice who are in the front room. This novel is complete with Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, their daughters and their daughters’ romances. But this book is about the backstairs romances, much the same as Downton Abbey. The author studied at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where she completed a Ph.D. on the work of the Anglo- Irish writer, Elizabeth Bowen. This is her third or fourth novel and she truly writes with historical accuracy. Examples are the meals prepared and served in the early 1800s (from the cook’s and servers’ perspective), the filing of teeth during that time and the administering of a “balm of Gilead,” which was nothing more than what was called “Hadacol” in the early and mid-20th Century, both of which were primarily alcohol with flavoring. The “balm of Gilead” here, however, is used by the mistress of the house, Mrs. Bennet, and administered by the primary maid servant/cook, Mrs. Hill, in Mrs. Bennet’s moments of despair. Longbourn follows the same story as Pride and Prejudice, the same characters and the same plot. Therefore, if you have read Pride and Prejudice, as has my lady friend, this will be familiar territory for you to explore. Or, if you’ve seen the several movies made of Pride and Prejudice, this will be of interest to you as well. As to the filing of teeth, blacksmiths pulled teeth in the early 19th Century, and in London, at least, men and women had their teeth filed to make them look even. Today it is called porcelain crowns and restorative dentistry. From time to time, this reviewer researched certain foods with strange names mentioned in this book but will not bore you with those details now. The aforementioned “balm of Gilead” was a patent medicine which was very popular during this period and, just as a martini today, it would calm your nerves. This book has received rave reviews from most of the major periodic journals, in America and England. If you like a good romance with twists and turns and a back stairs tale, get it and it will entertain you thoroughly. This book is in paperback and sells for $15.00. SAVING ITALY: The Race to Rescue A Nation’s Treasures From the Nazis By Robert M. Edsel W.W. Norton & Co., NY 2013, 454 pgs. On these pages some time ago, this reviewer reviewed the first history of The Monuments Men, whose job it was to save valuable artifacts, art and sculpture from destruction during WWII and to locate those objects and restore them to their proper owners. As most of us know, The Monuments Men was made into a movie which was released during the summer 2014. The movie and the book related the attempts by the Monuments Men to save those works of art primarily in France and other western European countries. This book tells the same story of The Monuments Men but it is centered primarily in Italy and describes the efforts of basically two men, Captain Deane Keller and Lt. Fred Hartt. Keller was a professor of art at Yale 16 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2014
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