- Paperback: 331 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 17, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345806972
- ISBN-13: 978-0345806970
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,058 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Longbourn Paperback – June 17, 2014
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A Best Book of the Year Selection: New York Times 100 Notable, Seattle Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Kirkus Reviews
“Rich, engrossing, and filled with fascinating observations. . . . If you are a Jane Austen fan . . . you will devour Jo Baker’s ingenious Longbourn.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Original and charming, even gripping, in its own right.”
—The New York Times Book Review
—The Miami Herald
“A witty, richly detailed re-imagining. . . . Fans of Austen and Downton Abbey will take particular pleasure in Longbourn, but any reader with a taste for well-researched historical fiction will delight in Baker’s involving, informative tale.”
“A bold novel, subversive in ways that prove surprising, and brilliant on every level.”
—The New Yorker
“A triumph: a splendid tribute to Austen’s original but, more importantly, a joy in its own right, a novel that contrives both to provoke the intellect and, ultimately, to stop the heart.”
—The Guardian (London)
“[A] fitting tribute, inventing a touching love story of its own.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“A freshly egalitarian reimagining.”
“[Baker’s] writing style draws admirably from Austen’s.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Engaging and rewarding.”
—The Washington Times
“Longbourn is told with glee and great wit.”
—The Daily Beast
“The Bennet family’s servants imagined by Baker have richly complicated lives and loyalties. . . . Baker deserves a bouquet. . . . Refreshing.”
—The Seattle Times
“There’s a finale so back-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead romantic, someone should render it in needlepoint.”
“Excellent. . . . In Sarah the housemaid, Baker has created a heroine, living in the same house as Elizabeth Bennet, who manages to shine despite Elizabeth’s long literary shadow.”
—Christian Science Monitor
“Lively. . . . Baker’s vivid passages about the natural world, working conditions and even of sorrow are . . . well detailed and articulated.”
—The Plain Dealer
“Longbourn is a really special book, and not only because its author writes like an angel. . . . There are some wildly sad and romantic moments; I was sobbing by the end. . . . Beautiful.” —Wendy Holden, Daily Mail (London)
“Inspired. . . . This is a genuinely fresh perspective on the tale of the Bennet household. . . . A lot of fun.”
—Sunday Times (London)
“This clever glimpse of Austen’s universe through a window clouded by washday steam is so compelling it leaves you wanting to read the next chapter in the lives below stairs rather than peer at the reflections of any grand party in the mirrors of Netherfield.”
—Daily Express (London)
“Impressive. . . . An engrossing tale we neither know nor expect.”
—Daily Telegraph (London)
About the Author
Jo Baker was born in Lancashire, England, and educated at Oxford University and Queen’s University Belfast. She is the author of the novels The Undertow, Offcomer, The Mermaid’s Child, and The Telling. She lives in Lancaster.
Top customer reviews
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Pride and Prejudice has always been a favourite story of mine. And I often wonder, daydream and imagine what life was like for Lizzy and Darcy. But I had also wondered what life would have been like for the servants of that household.
I can't imagine dealing with Mrs Bennett on a daily basis, both publicly and intimately (shudder at the thought) being a simple, easy task to undertake.
I was sucked-into Jo Baker's story within the first minute of starting the book. Immediately I liked and cared for the servants and I felt for them as they got along and completed their daily tasks(that turn my stomach and make me thankful that I live in this century!).
I found myself crossing my fingers and holding my breath that servant and gentry alike got to live Happily Ever After.
Jo Baker showed respect and attention to detail in incorporating her voice and imagination into the back-story of Jane Austen's masterpiece.
I have not read any other works by Jo Baker yet, but I intend to now asap.
A gentleman with an annual allowance, such as Mr Bennett from Pride and Prejudice, could afford more than one servant. Jo Baker, using clues from Jane Austin's novel, began to construct a backstory, rewriting the tale from the viewpoint of the employees who ran the household while Mrs Bennett tried to marry off her daughters. While the main characters make various appearances, it's the life of the cook, Mrs Hill, her elderly butler husband, and the two young servant girls, Sarah and Polly, who become the focal point of the novel Longbourn. Add in a young wanderer, James Smith, who is hired to do odd jobs including driving the family about and serving the meals, and you have the cast of characters.
The story opens with Sarah trying to get the girls' clothes clean on washday (Elizabeth's petticoats always seemed to be especially muddy) when she sees James wander by and starts to wonder. She continues wondering after James becomes the family's footman since he is especially quiet and doesn't seem to pay any attention to her, although he teases the younger Polly. Yet she can't help but be grateful when he picks up some of the more strenuous chores such as carting in the water and cleaning up the muck laden boots.
Life gets interesting when Bingley comes to stay at nearby Netherfield. The handsome mulatto groomsman, Ptlomey, who hand delivers the various missives back and forth between his master and Jane, provides a diversion for Sarah with his colorful descriptions of the long imagined London. Sarah must act as lady's maid when the five girls attend the ensuing social events, aggravating the chilblains on her hands as she irons and arranges their hair and clothing.
While the story follows along with the basic plot of the original novel, Baker creates this parallel story of the servants lives providing a different view of the inhabitants of Longbourn where Mrs Bennett is treated as a more sympathetic character while Mr Bennett is portrayed as a louse and a fool. The reader gets a closer look at what life was really like at the beginning of the 19th century without automobiles, electricity, washing machines, central heating, and plumbing (someone had to empty those chamber pots and wash those filthy nappies when babies were around). The Bennett sisters, while kindly towards the housemaids (even giving Sarah and Polly a choice of one of their old dresses after their father agreed to finance some new frocks), were also self centered, thinking only of their own comforts while others did the actual work. Reflecting the mores of the era, Baker does an excellent job of opening our eyes to how the other half lived.
While I would not say that the author has the same word smithing talent as Jane Austin, Baker does a credible job creating an enjoyable read. This is one of many published "adaptations" of the Bennett saga and is definitely worth a look. Between three and a half and four stars.
It can be difficult beginning to read a book that's been highly praised by many reviewers. You never know if it will meet your expectations or not.
Well, Longbourn surpassed them all.
I expected to re-experience the plot of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of those below the stairs. I was wrong. I was joyfully wrong. The world Baker created was so immersed in the lives of her characters (not Austen's) that all but few events impacted their lives to any great extent. I even bought a Kindle copy of P&P to compare. As sympathetic as Austen's girls were, looking at them through the eyes of their servants was, to twist a metaphor, an eye-opener.
This is a rich, beautiful and well-researched book. It is full of surprises, tragedies and delights. It's the story that wasn't told about the Bennett family.
I hope Baker will be able to continue producing such fine works of literature.
Most recent customer reviews
. If you like British historical novels you s h would enjoy this one