Longbourn by Jo Baker
Published by Knopf
Publication Date: October 8th 2013
Genres: Women's Fiction
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• Pride and Prejudice was only half the story •
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.
I have to begin by saying how much I enjoyed Longbourn by Jo Baker. I was immediately swept up in this tale which is basically the story of Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of the below-stairs staff. It is well-researched and beautifully written, and dedicates itself to show the reader the grueling life of the servants in the early 19th century.
Longbourn assumes the reader is already familiar with the works of Jane Austen, so begins immediately with the tale of the servants. Instead of presenting us with the seemingly glamorous lifestyle of the Bennett family, we are instead whisked away below stairs where we find the people who were responsible for all the back-breaking tasks that made that lifestyle possible.
Jo Baker is definitely an amazing story-teller. I was entirely captivated by this book. The author provides vivid details into the lives of the servant staff which made me feel like I was transported back in time and experiencing it all for myself.
You will find yourself becoming attached to the staff and rooting them on, feeling their despair, and wanting the best for them as you follow their struggles and daily hardships. It will make you appreciate all the daily conveniences that we have in our own lives today.
I totally recommend Longbourn to anyone who loves the works of Jane Austen or who, like me, is just fascinated with tales of domestic service in the early 19th century. You will not be disappointed. This one is a classic!!