From the cover flap of the book:
Pride and Prejudice was only half the story.
If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thoughts, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.
In this irresistibly imagined below stairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take centre 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 Longhorn 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.
I love reimaginings of Jane Austen’s books; they are my guilty pleasure.
The premise of Longbourn intrigued me from the moment I heard about it. It’s like Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abby, except with Pride & Prejudice characters. How lovely! And this truly was a beautiful different take on P&P.
Overall, Baker did a very good job playing in Austen’s world – it doesn’t use the same language, but the atmosphere and feeling of the original is still very much present. It was more truer than a large number of other adaptations that I’ve read, which made it so extremely enjoyable.
The characters that have been developed in this novel have been given much depth and seem very real – you really get an idea of the struggles and hardships that these women would have gone through every day of their lives. It’s definitely not a life that I could have lived. I adored Sarah, felt the downs that she felt, fell in love with James as she did, and cheered for her every step of the way. Love that this turned out to be such a beautiful story.
The one thing I didn’t really like about this is that I like Elizabeth Bennet slightly less now. She sometimes came across as a little self-centred, but I suppose that is probably to be expected for those who were raised with servants to take care of their every need… Goodness, never even needing to do your own laundry, or make your own food, or even do your hair… The next time I read P&P it may be a little bit coloured.
Mr. Bennet will be another character I look at differently on my next reading – but not in a liking him more or less kind of way… but Baker was able to create motivations for this character that I never would have thought of, while still fully maintaining the character we know of him in P&P. I really adored the spin that was put on this familiar character.
The Bottom Line
I definitely loved this book and will be looking for some of Baker’s other books. Highly recommended to other fans of Jane Austen’s books.