Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Longbourn by Jo Baker

I'm just going to say right now that I loved reading this book. Longbourn House is the residence of Mrs & Mrs Bennet of Pride & Prejudice fame, and this novel takes us back into the lives of the inhabiants of  Longbourn but this time the focus is on the servants rather than the Bennets.

Before reading Longbourn I had my doubts about this book. There are plenty of Pride & Prejudice fan fiction type novels out there that reimagine or keep alive the story of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, but I much prefer reading the original book. The success of Longbourn is that the characters of Pride & Prejudice are only glimpsed from time to time throughout its pages. Much as the servants were only background characters in Jane Austen's book, here we see the Bennet girls as the servants wait on them but for the most part we get to follow the lives of the help and see an altogether different take on the Bennet household.

If you haven't yet read Pride and Prejudice definitly pick it up before you give Longbourn a go as part of the charm of this book is how spot on Baker gets the characters. I had to laugh at the way she presents Jane Austen's much loved characters as they really do feel like the characters from Jane Austen's novel have come to visit on the pages of Longbourne.

This is a very clever story the way Baker has woven the servants story around the events that take place in Pride & Prejudice as both stories take place at the same time. We are introduced to Mrs Hill, the Bennet's housekeeper, their maids, Sarah and Polly and Mr Hill, when on a blustery day a new footman arrives into service bringing with him secrets that will change the household below stairs forever.

Longbourn is a fascinating take on how hard life was for the servants while the upper classes live a life of such ease and comfort. It's not a prerequesite to read Austen's Pride and Prejudice but I can only say that it adds greatly to the enjoyment of reading Longbourn. The story that takes place stands strongly on its own however I think fans of Austen will really get a kick out of how authentic Baker's vision is.

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