Longbourn - Jo Baker

Genre: Historical Fiction
Synopsis: If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them. In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.


Review: What an absolute pleasure this novel was to read. The primary joy of Longbourn is the manner in which it is written - such beautiful pose and immersive descriptions of life and locales in 1880s England. While I adore Pride & Prejudice, it has been a few years since my last reading of it and as such I very much took Longbourn as a story in and of itself, independent of its predecessor. I am pleased to say it stands alone perfectly, but also maps precisely onto the events of Pride & Prejudice for the benefit of more attentive fans than I. In every way, Longbourn serves as a fitting tribute and additional layer to the world of the classic novel.

The more dense prose is, the longer it takes me to read, so I spent a good week or so meandering my way through Longbourn. It is definitely not a book to be hurried.The characters are wonderful, both the ones who are mentioned in P&P but expanded upon here, as well as the entirely new characters. There are many reflections of the themes and mannerisms from the original novel illustrated in the surprisingly eventful lives of the gang below stairs, and at least one of the larger overarching themes is a massive twist on the characters of the original novel. Despite the magnitude of it, Baker pulls it off very well and, as is seemingly her style, with fantastic realism and credibility. Jane Austen had the advantage of living far closer to the time about which she wrote, and honestly the success Baker has in recapturing that time is phenomenal.

When the setting shifted dramatically at one point, I did feel a little disconcerted and I'm still not entirely sure if it really fit into this novel, but I can't fault the writing as I felt as wholly immersed in it as I had in the rest of the book up to (and after) that point. It certainly cemented Baker as an author from whom I will be seeking more reading material! If you're a fan of the original P&P, I honestly think reading Longbourn can only enhance your enjoyment of it. Fanastic novel.

Rating: 5/5

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