Pride and Prejudice was only half the story ...
Downton Abbey meets Pride and Prejudice in this brilliant novel out today. Or if you prefer, Upstairs Downstairs. In Longbourn, Jo Baker gives respctful voice to those characters whom we have met only in passing on stairs or through commentary and dialogue from Austen’s much loved Bennet family. While reading Longbourn you experience the opposite path: you’ll see the Bennets from a different point of view, that of their servants.
Sarah, the heroine of Jo Baker’s novel, is a maid servant at Longbourn. She is strong, brave and hardworking but ... does she like her job? She looks at the young ladies in the house with a sting of envy and admiration at the same time. Miss Jane, Miss Elizabeth, Kitty, Lydia and Mary ...
She thinks that if Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, she would be more careful not to trudge through muddy fields.
But when she thinks of Miss Elizabeth she sees her as so different from her sister, Jane, especially when it comes to dealing with gentlemen. Elizabeth is bright-eyed and quick and lovely, making the young men blush and stammer, and the old fellows smile and wish they are half their age, and that little bit scarpe in their wits.
Sarah has her own opinion on each one of the Bennet sisters, but as you can guess, Elizabeth is the one she admires the most.
|Original UK cover|
When the story starts it is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah’s hands are chapped and bleeding. Domestic life below the stairs, ruled tenderly and forcefully by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a new footman, smelling of the sea and bearing secrets.
For in Georgian England, there is a world the young ladies in the drawing room will never know, a world of poverty, love and brutal war (from the book blurb)
A world I bet Jane Austen knew somehow, but she chose not to tell much about in her novels. Whether it was to not scare the reader or for any other reason, we can’t reproach her for any of her choice, since the result was undeniably and hugely admirable.
That behind the scenes world, those tough aspects of low life in the Regency or Georgian Era, are what Jo Baker has amazingly brought to life in her engaging nove,l through new gripping characters interacting with the protagonists of Pride and Prejudice and a brilliantly crafted plot.
Longbourn comes out just in coincidence with the 200th celebration and is already due to become a film – rights pre-empted in 24 hours by Focus Features – and an International success.
Talented and versatile Jo Baker was born and grew up in Lancaster, educated at Oxford and Belfast and was formerly a bookseller. She lives in Lancaster with her husband and two children aged ten and five. Her own family were in service, a fact that lead Jo to considering the original idea for this novel.
Do I recommend this book? Definitely YES! I’m half-way through it and I simply love it. By the way, it’s time to go back to reading!.
“The day that simply could not be waited for did arrive, as they all eventually do. The house was in a flurry all afternoon …”