Monday, February 16, 2015

Frances Brody

Frances Brody lives in the North of England, where she was born and grew up. Brody started her writing life in radio, with many plays and short stories broadcast by the BBC. She has also written for television and theatre. A Woman Unknown is the fourth book in her 1920s series featuring Kate Shackleton, First World War widow turned sleuth, published by Minotaur Books. Murder in the Afternoon, third in the series, was named a Library Journal Best Mystery 2014.

Recently I asked Brody about what she was reading. Her reply:
Longbourn by Jo Baker was this month’s choice by my local library reading group.

The novel brilliantly reimagines Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the servants who wash clothes, cook and serve meals and drive the carriage for the Bennet family. You don’t need to have read Pride and Prejudice to appreciate the novel but there’s an added richness if you have. The author heads her chapters with lines from Jane Austen’s novel that dovetail with the drama going on in the servants’ quarters. The hard life of the servants provides a telling counterpoint to the ease of the Bennet girls’ lives. ‘If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats,’ Sarah thought, ‘she would be more careful not to tramp through muddy fields.’

There is a parallel love story, fraught with difficulties. Mysterious James Smith turns up looking for work and is instantly hired because having a male servant act as butler gives the household prestige.

Best of all, it is impeccably written with exquisite detail. An unexplained scene in the early part of the book creates tension and hints at secrets that would astound Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, and possibly even Jane Austen.
Visit Frances Brody's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dying in the Wool.

--Marshal Zeringue