Lancastrian writer Jo Baker will introduce her hugely successful best-selling novel, Longbourn, at the library this week.
Lancaster Litfest is proud to present the evening with Jo whose book is being made into a film to be released next year.
Longbourn tells a story of love and intrigue among the servants of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Jo wrote the bulk of the book in a quiet corner of Caffè Nero in Market Square, Lancaster.
When I met her there last year she talked about the amazing response to her book.
She said: “Within a week of getting it out to publishers in January, it went America, UK, film rights, just like that.
“We’ve also sold in 14 different languages.”
“I don’t think I’ve really properly processed what’s going on.
“To get positive responses has been amazing. One of my publishers commented that these reviews were like we wrote them ourselves they’ve been so astonishing.”
Jo’s own family were in service, which played its part in her decision to write the novel – described as Pride and Prejudice meets Downton Abbey, although Jo assured me she had never watched the popular ITV period drama.
“My grandma and her sisters were in service so I think reading Austen I always had this sense that I didn’t sort of belong in this world,” said Jo.
“It’s lovely to imagine yourself in Elizabeth Bennet’s shoes but in reality I wouldn’t have been wearing those shoes.
“Longbourn is a real sort of heartfelt personal response to that other novel and it’s to do with class, money and opportunity and privilege and in some ways it’s to do with my family.
“At times, it’s an incredibly personal book even though it’s a book that’s in dialogue with another woman’s novel which was written 200 years ago.”
For Jo who was born and grew up in Arkholme, there’s also a little of her own childhood in the book.
She spent many happy hours playing in the old vicarage at Arkholme, a house not unlike the home of the Bennet family in Pride and Prejudice, and says those details have stayed with her and leak into the novel.
Jo’s education began at the village primary school where there were just four of them in the year at that time.
She moved onto Queen Elizabeth School, Kirkby Lonsdale, then to college in Oxford followed by Belfast where she met her husband, the Irish playwright Daragh Carville.
The couple’s 10-year-old son was born in Belfast but Jo gave birth to her five-year-old daughter at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
They moved back to the area seven years ago when Jo landed a job teaching creative writing at Lancaster University and the family continues to live in the city.
The evening with Jo starts at 7.30pm at Lancaster Library on Friday March 7. Free tickets can be booked at www.litfest.org. Advance booking is recommended. Copies of the book will be available to buy on the night.