- Audio CD: 11 pages
- Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (October 8, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0804149402
- ISBN-13: 978-0804149402
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 5.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,051 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,031,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Longbourn Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. The servants of the Bennett estate manage their own set of dramas in this vivid re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice. While the marriage prospects of the Bennett girls preoccupy the family upstairs, downstairs the housekeeper Mrs. Hill has her hands full managing the staff that keeps Longbourn running smoothly: the young housemaids, Sarah and Polly; the butler, Mr. Hill; and the mysterious new footman, James Smith, who bears a secret connection to Longbourn. At the heart of the novel is a budding romance between James and orphan-turned-housemaid Sarah, whose dutiful service belies a ferocious need for notice, an insistence that she fully be taken into account. When an expected turn of events separates the young lovers, Sarah must contend with James&'s complicated past and the never-ending demands of the Bennetts. Baker (The Mermaid&'s Child) offers deeper insight into Austen&'s minor characters, painting Mr. Collins in a more sympathetic light while making the fiendish Mr. Wickham even more sinister. The Militia, which only offered opportunities for flirtations in the original, here serves as a reminder of the horrors of the Napoleonic Wars. Baker takes many surprising risks in developing the relationships between the servants and the Bennetts, but the end result steers clear of gimmick and flourishes as a respectful and moving retelling. A must-read for fans of Austen, this literary tribute also stands on its own as a captivating love story. First printing of 150,000. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Associates. (Oct.) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
*Starred Review* Elizabeth and Darcy take a backseat in this engrossing Austen homage, which focuses on the lives of the servants of Longbourn rather than the Bennet family. Baker’s (The Undertow, 2012) novel finds Sarah, the Bennets’ young, pretty housemaid, yearning for something more than washing soiled dresses and undergarments. The arrival of a handsome new footman, James Smith, creates quite a stir as he’s hired after a heated discussion between Mrs. Hill, the cook and head of the servants, and Mr. Bennet. Sarah isn’t sure what to make of the enigmatic new member of the household staff, but she’s soon distracted by the Bingleys’ charismatic footman, Ptolemy, who takes an interest in Sarah and regales her with his dreams of opening up a tobacco shop. Baker vividly evokes the lives of the lower classes in nineteenth-century England, from trips in the rain to distant shops to the struggles of an infantryman in the Napoleonic Wars. She takes a few liberties with Austen’s characters—Wickham’s behavior takes on a more sinister aspect here—but mostly Austen’s novel serves as a backdrop for the compelling stories of the characters who keep the Bennet household running. --Kristine Huntley --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Where PRIDE AND PREJUDICE left the Bennet servants as faceless ciphers, in LONGBOURN they are the central characters. There are Mr and Mrs Hill, butler and cook; teenage maid Polly; and the heroine, Sarah. To this small, thinly-stretched team is added James Smith, the new footman. At first Sarah is suspicious of James, whose arrival in the household was the subject of a mysterious argument between Mrs Hill and Mr Bennet. As suspicion hardens into dislike, Sarah finds herself drawn toward the charming footman at neighboring Netherfield, who is also the first black man Sarah has ever seen. As she learns more about these two strange and fascinating arrivals, Sarah takes steps that will change her life forever.
The true subject of LONGBOURN is not, however, Sarah's romantic life, which mirrors Elizabeth's from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and is equally predictable. Baker is concerned instead with the life of the lower classes in Regency England, the deprivation and suffering that produced the gilded world through which Austen's characters moved. This is a worthy topic, though not a new one; attempts to give servants equal time in period pieces go back at least as far as the 1970s TV series UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS. But Austen's novels, with their glittering surfaces and unexpressed but forceful themes beneath, are ideal for that purpose, and Baker does a more than satisfactory job of it. At times she emphasizes the parallels between masters and servants too plainly; I got rather tired of reading descriptions of the Bennets' idle melancholy followed by some variation on "Sarah didn't have the luxury of that." But given how glaring the disparities are, it's hard to describe them at all without sounding unsubtle.
With one brief, charming exception, Baker makes no attempt to imitate Austen's prose, opting instead for a more modern and immediate tone that captures the grim fatalism of the servants' day-to-day existence. Apart from a few instances of distractingly contemporary diction, it works quite well, conjuring for the reader the pain of constant labor, the loneliness of lives confined to a radius of a few miles, and the small pleasures that are all servants can hope for. A late section in which one character's backstory moves the scene away from the English countryside is especially intense; Baker has a real gift for spare, bleak descriptions of physical and emotional devastation.
As noted, lovers of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE won't find much new here, though minor characters like Mr Collins and Mary Bennet are shown in a more sympathetic light, and George Wickham manages to be even worse. There is one major twist to a key character late in the narrative. I can't describe it without spoilers, but I don't think it really works, either in terms of the characters as Austen presented them or as drama in its own right. It has the stink of class-conflict melodrama, which the novel has otherwise avoided. But Baker handles this element as well as it can be handled, and the overall resolution echoes Austen without abandoning LONGBOURN's own distinctive voice. It's surprisingly moving: the characters may not be that complex, but they're human enough to engage our sympathy all the same. This is a fine historical novel, especially recommended to thoughtful readers of Austen and those interested in the darker side of the opulent English past.
It kind of made you see the ladies and gentlemen in a different , not as appealing light, but then that's the reality of it. Now when I watch or read pride and prejudice over again i'll never be able to forget this book and what it revealed.
I did not know many of the words used, as they are no longer used today and has to guess at their meaning or stop to look them up. I personally, could have used a small dictionary at the back of the book to help with these "olde" world words.