Longbourn by Jo BakerLongbourn by Jo Baker

Longbourn

byJo Baker

Paperback | October 8, 2013 | Large Print

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Pride and Prejudice was only half the story •
 
If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.
 
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own. 

JO BAKER was born in Lancashire and educated at Oxford University and Queen's University Belfast. She is the author of The Undertow, and of 3 earlier novels published in the United Kingdom: Offcomer, The Mermaid's Child and The Telling. She lives in Lancaster.
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Title:LongbournFormat:Paperback | Large PrintDimensions:560 pages, 9.18 × 6.11 × 1.22 inPublished:October 8, 2013Publisher:Diversified PublishingLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0804121141

ISBN - 13:9780804121149

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Jane Austen Fan An excellent book edition for any Jane Austen fan. A great addition to your library collection.
Date published: 2017-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must for fans of Jane Austen If you've breezed through Jane Austen's works and find yourself wanting more, definitely try Longbourn. What a marvellous peek into the downstairs world of Pride & Prejudice! The author stays true to Austen's writing style too, so it never feels jarring or weird. This has become a permanent addition to my bookshelf, and I'll happily read it again!
Date published: 2017-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What a story! An excellent addition to your library.
Date published: 2017-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent read I had been struggling to find something with history and detail and this book provided both. I was delighted.
Date published: 2017-04-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ok Good book, not as entertaining as Pride and Prejudice
Date published: 2017-02-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not as expected After reading reviews and the book jacket, I expected this novel to have more of a Downton Abbey upstairs/downstairs vibe. However, I was disappointed with the dynamic and found parts dragged on and on. The ending is what made me stick around...but it took a while to get there!
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Nice Read I really enjoyed reading this book! The characters are well developed, and I liked learning about the lives of the servants in the Bennett household. It's an interesting take on the characters and settings from Pride and Prejudice, so you should check out Longbourn if you're a fan of British historical fiction.
Date published: 2017-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I enjoyed this book The reverse perspective was very interesting. So much toil and pain from the servants just to provide the gentry with the basics of "civilized" living. Also reveals Wickham to be really wicked.
Date published: 2017-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Jane Austen's world with very accessible characters I REALLY enjoyed this book. I read it on vacation and almost never put it down. When I finished, I was satisfied with the conclusion; but like with any book you love, I felt disappointed that I didn't have more to read. Storyline marches along with the timeline from P&P but it doesn't borrow a lot of plot from it. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved! Similar to other reviews, I loved reading the story through the perspective of the servant's. Got this as a gift and would have bought it for myself if I didn't!
Date published: 2016-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love the different perspective Great read! Love reading about the story from a different perspective.
Date published: 2016-12-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved the other side It was a great read! Really shows the servant's side of the story and the lifestyle that they lead. I enjoyed the love stories that circled the help almost as much as I enjoyed Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
Date published: 2016-12-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Longbourn Clever. Nice to see an old favourite through new eyes. Well written.
Date published: 2016-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Loved the story. If you are a fan of period pieces. This is for you.
Date published: 2016-12-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Slow to Start This book was slow to start, unsure of how all the characters were relevant but the story came together nicely. I was expecting a sort of "Downton Abbey" under the stairs feel - which this book wasn't. However it was still a good read.
Date published: 2016-11-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Read I enjoyed reading this book. When I started to read it, I wasn't sure if I would like it, but found that at the half way point it picked up.
Date published: 2016-11-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good read! If you like Downton Abbey, you will enjoy this book! Easy and fast to read. Great characters and great story. Heather does it again with her book picks!
Date published: 2016-11-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved this story ... I really enjoyed this book - characters and their relationships really come to life. Definitely a good read. :)
Date published: 2016-11-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not Austen but still good This was a good read, and I would recommend it to others on one condition: Don't expect it to be written in the Austen style. Baker did a wonderful job bringing Longbourn to life and showing the more realistic and grim aspects of life in Austen's world. But I couldn't help but feel she missed the heart of the characters(excepting mr. collins whom she captured perfectly) as they all, including Elizabeth come off as vapid and spoiled. I honestly feel like she could have given the characters different names, and and I would not have recognized it. But that's the risk of taking a story that's so beloved and adding to it. It's a risk however that paid off, after all I likely would not have picked it up if not for the connection, and still I enjoyed it. The characters that Baker created (or in other words brought out of obscurity) were written wonderfully. Sarah is exactly what I imagined a girl in her situation would be, and the others are vibrant if not tragic. So if you plan to pick this book up just be ready to see the time period as it really was, rather than the dream Austen makes it out to be.
Date published: 2015-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful! Absolutely love this book! Would recommend to fans of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice!
Date published: 2015-09-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A very pleasant surprise! Another reviewer acknowledged what we all know: this concept was an accident waiting to happen. BUT, Longbourn turned out to be a lovely way to revisit Austen's world without tainting it in any way. Moving focus just to the side of the original action, Baker has constructed a world that is rich, interesting, and completely respectful of the cherished classic. This new(ish) story is an enhancement to its inspiration. A really enjoyable read!
Date published: 2015-06-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from This is a great add-on to Pride & Prejudice! 3.5 stars Let's just be honest and say that this book could have been really bad. I always find that whenever a new book comes out and tries to capture the magic atmosphere of a classic, it usually always ends up failing. I've read a fair few of the sequels to Jane Austen's original works and I didn't like any of them, but LONGBOURN totally captivated me! It starts off as quite a slow read and at first I didn't think I was going to like it. Thankfully, though, the book seemed to have picked up at the half-way point and from there, I just couldn't put it down. LONGBOURN focuses on the Bennets' servants and their trials and tribulations, which prove to be very engrossing. I really connected to each main character below-stairs and ended up hating a few of the wealthy characters that Austen made so popular with her release of Pride & Prejudice. The backstories of the servants were amazingly fleshed-out and the pace of the book was just right. If you're a lover of Austen's original work, then you should definitely pick LONGBOURN up! Chances are, you'll really enjoy reading it!
Date published: 2015-04-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from If you are craving more Austen... As a Jane Austen fan, I was worried I would be disappointed by this book somehow, but thankfully just the opposite was true. It is a great read and a story all it's own. Even if you aren't familiar with Pride and Prejudice (shame on you... ;) ) but maybe are a fan of someone like Kate Morton or the show Downton Abbey - you will definitely enjoy this book!
Date published: 2014-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great compliment to a classic I loved the book pride and prejudice and I loved reading this complimentary book. You do not need to have read the Jane Austen classic but it was fun to essentially reread a condensed version of it all over again while reading Longbourn. I wanted to know the end and enjoyed the classic story that was put together, reminding us of all the behind the scenes work that so many did for the well off in that time. A pleasant read that I would highly recommend
Date published: 2014-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A surprising perspective As I am drawn to all things Austen related, I bought Longbourn wanting to immerse myself in that world once again. This book is a wonderful addition to the Austen world, but it works wonderfully as a stand alone story with vivid characters and a compelling plot. Longbourn offers such a different perspective on the well known characters; it brings the reader into the demanding and hardworking lives of those who live downstairs as they face their own crises and choices. A great read!
Date published: 2014-07-08

Read from the Book

Chapter II   ‘Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable.’   They were lucky to get him. That was what Mr B. said, as he folded his newspaper and set it aside. What with the War in Spain, and the press of so many able fellows into the Navy; there was, simply put, a dearth of men.   A dearth of men? Lydia repeated the phrase, anxiously searching her sisters’ faces: was this indeed the case? Was England running out of men?   Her father raised his eyes to heaven; Sarah, meanwhile, made big astonished eyes at Mrs Hill: a new servant joining the household! A manservant! Why hadn’t she mentioned it before? Mrs Hill, clutching the coffee pot to her bosom, made big eyes back, and shook her head: shhh! I don’t know, and don’t you dare ask! So Sarah just gave half a nod, clamped her lips shut, and returned her attention to the table, proffering the platter of cold ham: all would come clear in good time, but it did not do to ask. It did not do to speak at all, unless directly addressed. It was best to be deaf as a stone to these conversations, and seem as incapable of forming an opinion on them.   Miss Mary lifted the serving fork and skewered a slice of ham. ‘Papadoesn’t mean your beaux, Lydia – do you, Papa?’   Mr B., leaning out of the way so that Mrs Hill could pour his coffee, said that indeed he did not mean her beaux: Lydia’s beaux always seemed to be in more than plentiful supply. But of working men there was a genuine shortage, which is why he had settled with this lad so promptly – this with an apologetic glance to Mrs Hill, as she moved around him and went to fill his wife’s cup – though the quarter day of Michaelmas was not quite yet upon them, it being the more usual occasion for the hiring and dismissal of servants.   ‘You don’t object to this hasty act, I take it, Mrs Hill?’   ‘Indeed I am very pleased to hear of it, sir, if he be a decent sort of fellow.’   ‘He is, Mrs Hill; I can assure you of that.’   ‘Who is he, Papa? Is he from one of the cottages? Do we know the family?’   Mr B. raised his cup before replying. ‘He is a fine upstanding young man, of good family. I had an excellent character of him.’   ‘I, for one, am very glad that we will have a nice young man to drive us about,’ said Lydia, ‘for when Mr Hill is perched up there on the carriage box it always looks like we have trained a monkey, shaved him here and there and put him in a hat.’   Mrs Hill stepped away from the table, and set the coffee pot down on the buffet. ‘Lydia!’ Jane and Elizabeth spoke at once.   ‘What? He does, you know he does. Just like a spider-monkey, like the one Mrs Long’s sister brought with her from London.’   Mrs Hill looked down at a willow-pattern dish, empty, though crusted round with egg. The three tiny people still crossed their tiny bridge, and the tiny boat crawled like an earwig across the china sea, and all was calm there, and unchanging, and perfect. She breathed. Miss Lydia meant no harm, she never did. And however heedlessly she expressed herself, she was right: this change was certainly to be welcomed. Mr Hill had become, quite suddenly, old. Last winter had been a worrying time: the long drives, the late nights while the ladies danced or played at cards; he had got deeply cold, and had shivered for hours by the fire on his return, his breath rattling in his chest. The coming winter’s balls and parties might have done for him entirely. A nice young man to drive the carriage, and to take up the slack about the house; it could only be to the good.   Mrs Bennet had heard tell, she was now telling her husband and daughters delightedly, of how in the best households they had nothing but manservants waiting on the family and guests, on account of every- one knowing that they cost more in the way of wages, and that there was a high tax to pay on them, because all the fit strong fellows were wanted for the fields and for the war. When it was known that the Bennets now had a smart young man about the place, waiting at table, opening the doors, it would be a thing of great note and marvel in the neighbourhood.   ‘I am sure our daughters should be vastly grateful to you, for letting us appear to such advantage, Mr Bennet. You are so considerate. What, pray, is the young fellow’s name?   ‘His given name is James,’ Mr Bennet said. ‘The surname is a very common one. He is called Smith.’   ‘James Smith.’   It was Mrs Hill who had spoken, barely above her breath, but the words were said. Jane lifted her cup and sipped; Elizabeth raised her eyebrows but stared at her plate; Mrs B. glanced round at her house- keeper. Sarah watched a flush rise up Mrs Hill’s throat; it was all so new and strange that even Mrs Hill had forgot herself for a moment. And then Mr B. swallowed, and cleared his throat, breaking the silence.   ‘As I said, a common enough name. I was obliged to act with some celerity in order to secure him, which is why you were not sooner informed, Mrs Hill; I would much rather have consulted you in advance.’   Cheeks pink, the housekeeper bowed her head in acknowledgement.   ‘Since the servants’ attics are occupied by your good self, your husband and the housemaids, I have told him he might sleep above the stables. Other than that, I will leave the practical and domestic details to you. He knows he is to defer to you in all things.’   ‘Thank you, sir,’ she murmured.   ‘Well.’ Mr B. shook out his paper, and retreated behind it. ‘There we are, then. I am glad that it is all settled.’   ‘Yes,’ said Mrs B. ‘Are you not always saying, Hill, how you need another pair of hands about the place? This will lighten your load, will it not? This will lighten all your loads.’   Their mistress took in Sarah with a wave of her plump hand, and then, with a flap towards the outer reaches of the house, indicated the rest of the domestic servants: Mr Hill who was hunkered in the kitchen, riddling the fire, and Polly who was, at that moment, thumping down the back stairs with a pile of wet Turkish towels and a scowl.   ‘You should be very grateful to Mr Bennet for his thoughtfulness, I am sure.’   ‘Thank you, sir,’ said Sarah.   The words, though softly spoken, made Mrs Hill glance across at her; the two of them caught eyes a moment.   ‘Thank you, sir,’ said Mrs Hill.   Mrs Bennet dabbed a further spoonful of jam on her remaining piece of buttered muffin, popped it in her mouth, and chewed it twice; she spoke around her mouthful: ‘That’ll be all, Hill.’   Mr B. looked up from his paper at his wife, and then at his housekeeper.   ‘Yes, thank you very much, Mrs Hill,’ he said. ‘That will be all for now.’

Editorial Reviews

A Best Book of the Year Selection: New York Times 100 Notable, Seattle Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Kirkus Reviews “Masterful . . . From the same stream that fed Austen’s literary imagination, Baker has drawn forth something entirely new and fresh.” —Miami Herald“Happily, Longbourn is no mere riff but a fully imagined rejoinder to Price and Prejudice  . . . Austen would have appreciated Baker’s bracing rewrite from the underdog’s point of view.” —Newsday“If you are a Jane Austen fan with a pronounced predilection for Pride and Prejudice, you will devour Jo Baker’s ingenious Longbourn as the ambrosia from the Austen gods it is . . . It’s an idea that could have felt derivative or sycophantic in its execution, and yet the novel is rich, engrossing, and filled with fascinating observation . . . Dive in and you might even forget to watch Downton Abbey.” —O magazine“Intelligent and elegantly written . . . Longbourn reveals these messy backdrops [of Pride and Prejudice] while still, in fitting tribute, inventing a touching love story of its own.” —Wall Street Journal“An absorbing and moving story about the servants at Longbourn . . . Both original and charming, even gripping . . . If Charlotte Brontë had taken up the challenge of a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, she might very well have hit upon the sort of broader, more sympathetic point of view Jo Baker has derived from the servants’ quarters.” —Diane Johnson, New York Times Book Review“Longbourn is a bold novel, subversive in ways that prove surprising, and brilliant on every level. This is a masterful twist on a classic . . . Much more than a frothy, Downton Abbey-like twist on Austen. This novel is moving, filled with suspense, and impressive for the sympathy with which it explores the drudgery of the servants’ lives, as well as their heartaches. That said, there’s plenty of Austen-worthy wit too.” —USA Today “Delightful . . . The achievement of Baker’s reworking is that Sarah is no mere foil for Elizabeth Bennet; her notions of individual agency and the pursuit of happiness push more forcefully against the class and social strictures of her time than any character in Austen’s novel. The result is a heroine whom it’s impossible not to root for.” —The New Yorker “A witty, richly detailed re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice . . . 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.” —People“A triumph: a splendid tribute to Austen’s original but, more importantly, a joy in its own right . . . Like Austen, Baker has written an intoxicating love story but, also like Austen, the pleasure of her novel lies in its wit and fierce intelligence . . . Baker not only creates a richly imagined story of her own but recasts Austen’s novel in a startlingly fresh light . . . Inspired.” —The Guardian “Diehards who love Jane Austen and Downton Abbey will fan their corseted bosoms while tearing through this novel.” —Entertainment Weekly“The servants have complicated, messy, interesting lives that are every bit as compelling as the Bennet girls’ quest for husbands.” —NPR “Weekend Edition”“Irresistible . . . Sequels and prequels rarely add to the original, but Baker’s simple yet inspired reimagining does. It has best-seller stamped all over it.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)“Longbourn is a really special book, and not only because its author writes like an angel. Its real achievement is to circumnavigate the world of Austen knock-offs and return, like Francis Drake, with a hold full of treasure . . . There are some wildly sad and romantic moments; I was sobbing by the end . . . A beautiful book.” —Daily Mail (UK) “Longbourn is told with glee and great wit, and will delight diehard Austen fans.” —The Daily Beast“Inspired . . . This is a genuinely fresh perspective on the tale of the Bennet household . . . A lot of fun.” —Sunday Times (UK)  “An especially appealing, and timely, reworking of the classic . . . Much as Jean Rhys’s reimagining of Jane Eyre through a postcolonial perspective became popular in the late nineteen-sixties, when Wide Sargasso Sea was published, so is Baker’s class-conscious reconsideration of Pride and Prejudice representative of our own time.” —NewYorker.com “Beautifully realized . . . [The characters below stairs] are every bit as absorbing as Lizzy, Wickham, and Darcy.” —The National“A splendid page-turner . . . The much-loved Pride and Prejudice is shaken up and given the grit that Jane Austen could never include—with great success . . . Baker’s imaginative leaps are stunningly well done, both historically and emotionally.” —Evening Standard (UK) “A must-read for fans of Austen, this literary tribute also stands on its own as a captivating love story . . . Baker takes many surprising risks in developing the relationships between the servants and the Bennets, but the end result steers clear of gimmick and flourishes as a respectful and moving retelling.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)“Captivating . . . A brilliantly imagined and lovingly told story about the wide world beyond the margins and outside the parlors of Pride and Prejudice.” —Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements“Impressive . . . Baker takes ownership of this world without mimicking Austen’s style, asserting instead her own distinctive, authentic voice. Longbourn is not just nicely packaged fan fiction, or an Austenian Downton Abbey; it’s an engrossing tale we neither know nor expect.” —Daily Telegraph (UK)“Achingly romantic . . . This exquisitely reimagined Pride and Prejudice will appeal to Austen devotees and to anyone who finds the goings-on below the stairs to be at least as compelling as the ones above. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal (starred)“If Longbourn is received as a delicious concoction of Pride and Prejudice meets Downton Abbey, then, for commercial reasons, no one will feel sorry for Jo Baker, but for artistic ones, she will have been treated unfairly. Baker is a real and very fine writer, and Longbourn stands on its own as an engrossing, intelligent historical novel. At the same time, its resonances with Pride and Prejudice go much farther than its brilliantly plausible presentation of downstairs life: critics have long striven to prove that the great issues of Austen's time—slavery, war, enclosures—impinged on her work; Baker shows us the fermentation below the froth.” —James Collins, author of Beginner’s Greek “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 (UK)