Book Review: Longbourn by Jo Baker
July 6, 2014 19 Comments
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