I am very much looking forward to seeing Death Comes to Pemberley on Boxing Day, because I love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and anything written about that set of characters is an instant winner with me – that’s also why I wanted to read Longbourn by Jo Baker as soon as I heard about it, but if you thought this was another fancy pantsy re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice then is certainly isn’t.
This Longbourn is the other, unseen side, from that depicted in Pride and Prejudice, this is the side of the coin I certainly would’ve been on – the story of Longbourn’s servants.
Longbourn is quite fascinating and, in some ways, is much more real than Pride and Prejudice itself. Jo Baker’s description within the first few pages of the maid, Sarah, doing the laundry for the whole household and thinking to herself that Miss Elizabeth Bennet would be less prone to tramping about in the mud if she had to clean her own petticoats was a bit of a ‘Oh yeah!’ moment. It’s so easy to get lost in the fairytale world of Pride and Prejudice, that the household staff get absorbed into the background – a point that Jo Baker makes later on in the book.
Although interwoven with, and influenced by, the plot of Pride and Prejudice, Longbourn begins with the arrival of a new footman, James Smith, and his influence on the rest of the servants. There is also a great deal of delving into James’ back story which was interesting in its way, but not as interesting as the goings on at Longbourn. I don’t want to go too much further into the plot of the book for fear of spoilers, but suffice to say, after you’ve read this you will NEVER look at Mr Bennet the same way again…
I can thoroughly recommend Longbourn, even if you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice as it works just as well as a standalone historical novel, but if you are a P&P fan, then it is a very rewarding read, and a giant leap above some of the other P&P-based novels currently on the market!