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


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19 Responses to Book Review: Longbourn by Jo Baker

  1. hastanton says:

    I loved this book !! It’s so clever ….and a great story ….was desperate to know what was going to happen at the end !

  2. diane says:

    I really like the sound of this, so happy to read how much you enjoyed it.

  3. Mystica says:

    It sounds like a real upstairs downstairs type of read. I would like to read it myself

  4. You liked this one better than me. I really had troubled engaging with it.

  5. I have been on the Overdrive waiting list forever! Loved hearing your thoughts; I will be doing it on audio, so it will be interesting to see how it handles that format.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Care, I think audio will be just fine. It’s not a complex read. Just after 3/4th of the book, you might wonder if the narrator missed a few pages… it becomes really different suddenly.

  6. Isi says:

    I knew this one but I hadn’t read any reviews yet!
    I feel it’s kind of strange trying to tell a story that is happening at the same moment of a classic story, but it’s original, I want to read it!!
    And I think it’s great that the servants have their own lives 😀

  7. Catherine says:

    I have this one on my Kindle and have to read it! So many books to read though 😉

  8. I just finished this over the weekend and really enjoyed it as well!

  9. bibliosue says:

    That is interesting how the book is about the servants’ lives rather than just their take on the events described in P&P. I don’t know if I would read this book, but that fact does make it more interesting to me.

  10. Dankzij Longbourn waardeer ik mijn wasmachine meer en Mrs Bennet. De hoofdpersonen en hun verwikkelingen zijn niet altijd even geloofwaardig maar de directe en bloemrijke manier waarop Baker vertelt maakt veel goed.

  11. Pingback: Longbourn by Jo Baker | The Sleepless Reader

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