Book Review: Longbourn by Jo Baker

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Longbourn: What it is about

From Goodreads: “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.

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own. “

Longbourn: What I thought

It had been a while since I read Pride and Prejudice so I checked the story on Wikipedia. And that was all I really needed. Longbourn is the story of the servants of the P&P family Bennett. As long as you’ve got the broad storyline of that novel in mind, you’re fine. The details do not matter, because the family and the servants live quite different lives.

This was a very interesting thing in the novel: their lives hardly touch. The servants have a completely different life, and they certainly do not think or worry about what is happening to their employers. So, in this novel, Mr. Darcy is hardly ever mentioned. James, the footman, is much, much more important in the life of Sarah, the housemaid. This discrepancy felt completely believable. While we, readers, have been obsessing over the lives and times of the Bennetts in P&P, the servants really don’t care. They live their own lives.

Luckily, the servants have their own interesting story. They work hard, but they have a past with secrets, or a crush on someone in their vicinity.

Most of the book is about Sarah, but later on it completely changes, with James as the main character and a greater role for Mrs Hill. This didn’t seem to fit very well with the earlier story, but it made for an interesting story about James’ past and Mrs Hill’s secret (oh, and Mr Hill also has a secret). The ending summarizes what happens after Pride and Prejudice finishes and that, again, was a strange way to continue the story. The book didn’t feel to sit together very well. Since the story was captivating enough, it didn’t bother me.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (good to very good)

Number of pages: 352

First published: 2013

I got this: borrowed from a friend

Genre: historical fiction


Two-weekly Reading Roundup

The last two weeks

Thanks to all for your feedback on my website. It was much appreciated and I did change a few things on the basis of your comments.

Of course, if you follow my blog, you know it was the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop last week. It was another great success. I didn’t win a book this time, but in a Facebook giveaway, I won a mosquito net from my local book shop. The owner bought one and liked it so much that they started selling them in the shop with the suggestion that you might read undisturbed this way. My son and I are planning to set it up soon – only he has been so busy with overdue school work this weekend that it will have to wait.

I went to the 40-year work anniversary of a blog follower of mine who works at the library of Amsterdam. I’m telling you: if you’re ever in Amsterdam, go there! It’s almost next to the central station (go left) opposite the Chinese boat restaurant. The top floor has food and a balcony so you can look out over all of Amsterdam. Brilliant! The anniversary party was also great, by the way. :-)

This week, I’m doing a two-day course and it’s book group on Friday. I’m keeping busy!


Books I finished in the last TWO weeks: 5 plus a DNF


Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen FieldingTurn of Mind by Alice LaplanteThe Martian by Andy WeirLongbourn by Jo BakerBoer zoekt m/v by Rhijja JansenHet Boschhuis [The Bosch House]  by Pauline Broekema


Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding. Third book in the Bridget Jones series. Darcy is no longer and Bridget has a much younger lover. Otherwise all as before. 3.5 stars.

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante. A woman with Alzheimer may or may not have killed her best friend. 4 stars.

The Martian by Andy Weir. On a mission to Mars one of the astronauts stays behind. He has to survive until the next mission in a few years’ time. 4.5 stars

Longbourn by Jo Baker. Behind the scenes at Pride and Prejudice: the servants’ tale. 4.5 stars

Boer zoekt m/v [Farmer seeks m/v] by Rhija Jansen. Dutch. Easy, totally unbelievable story about a television programme in which a young woman is one of the candidates to become a farmer’s girlfriend. 4 stars

Het Boschhuis [The Bosch House] by Pauline Broekema. A fictionalised family history. Too detailed, too disconnected. DNF.


Other books I reviewed

Not the End by Kate Vane

Not the end by Kate Vane. The death of an older lady and her inheritance. 3.5 stars



Planning to read next

Haal meer uit je dip [Get More Out of Your Bad Turn] by Marisa GarauSnow White by Donald BarthelmeDark Eden by Chris BeckettAlles hiervoor by Andre PlatteelThe Home Place by Carrie la Seur


What are YOU reading this week?


Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian: What it is about

From the author: “Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”

The Martian: What I thought

When a science fiction novel doesn’t involve fighting space ships, I’m all for it! This one was about space travel, or actually: space living. When Mark is left behind on Mars after a mission goes wrong, he’s has to use his wits to survive. He knows the next space mission won’t be for several years and he plans to stay alive until he can be rescued.

Most of the book is his log about his plans (and the execution of them) on how to survive for so long. This is alternated with the story of the NASA staff back on earth who are trying to get into contact with him (indeed, even that is not possible) and try to find ways to get food to him or rescue him in some other way.

The premise is brilliant and the actions Mark undertakes to keep alive are very inventive and clever. Unfortunately, he goes into quite a lot of detail to describe what he does and I found this a little tedious at times. I mean, I didn’t need to know exactly how much hydrogen he could recover from so much water and so much oxygen (sorry, maybe it wasn’t quite that) or how much energy he needed. Calculation upon calculation. I didn’t mind it too much, but I certainly didn’t check whether he was right.

Especially in the beginning, it felt as if I was reading an accountancy report, replacing dollars for liters and forces. But the story is good, he gets a little further with his plans every day, although of course there are some fall backs. With his clever thinking he usually finds a good solution, but sometimes it’s more a matter of hope than of certainty.

A lot of things went right for him, maybe too many. Mark was so inventive that it seemed unlikely that something would go so wrong, that he wouldn’t survive (plus the story would lose its main character!). I guess just being on Mars with the smallest mistake being lethal was enough to keep the story interesting.

Mark didn’t talk much about how he felt being on his own on a planet with no hope of a swift rescue. He didn’t seem to miss anyone back on earth. He focused totally on survival. That seemed a bit unrealistic. Wouldn’t you have an off-day where you wallow in self-pity?

But having said all that, I loved the story and the somewhat unlikely ending.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (good to very good)

Number of pages: 384

First published: 2014

I got this: from the publishers, Crown, for review (ebook)

Genre: science fiction (space travel)


Winner of the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop


It’s the end of the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop! Over 30 blogs joined me in giving away books and there were some real gems to be won.

There was a lot of activity on my blog and other blogs. I saw lots of tweeting and other activity.

It’s time to draw a winner!

The winner is…

Marie (McStone)

Congratulations! I’ll send you an email to ask you for your address details. Please answer this within 3 days.

Thanks to everyone who participated. I think we can say the blog hop was another great success.

Did you take part in the hop? And… did you win anything?


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