Reviews of Longbourn by Jo Baker

Longbourn

by Jo Baker

Longbourn by Jo Baker X
Longbourn by Jo Baker
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2013, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2014, 352 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Pride and Prejudice was only half the story. Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen's classic and creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own.

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 below stairs 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.

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...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What did you think of Jo Baker's stylistic choice to include multiple characters' perspectives in a single chapter? Do you think it enhanced the book?
  2. What were your thoughts on the beginning of Volume Three, which was dedicated entirely to James Smith?
  3. How would you compare and contrast the love stories between Sarah and James, and Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy?
  4. Longbourn provides an alternative angle to Pride and Prejudice. Can you think of a classic novel that you would like to see rewritten in another character's voice?
  5. What did you make of each chapter's introductory quote? Were there any that you were particularly drawn to? Why?
  6. Lizzie Bennet is a much-loved heroine. Has Longbourn changed your view of her ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Pride and Prejudice and Longbourn create a delightfully unified whole. It is possible to read one without the other, but reading them together provides a broad and nuanced view of early 19th century England - and takes readers into the lives of some of literature's most beloved characters...continued

Full Review (649 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

Media Reviews

Mail on Sunday (UK)
Who washes Elizabeth Bennet's dirty petticoats? Jo Baker not only poses the question, but uses it superbly to rework a familiar tale ... All done with the lightest of touches by a highly accomplished young writer of whom more, surely, will be heard.

The Daily Express (UK)
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.

The Guardian (UK)
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 ... Inspired.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Sequels and prequels rarely add to the original, but Baker's simple yet inspired reimagining does. It has best-seller stamped all over it.

Library Journal
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.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A must-read for fans of Austen, this literary tribute also stands on its own as a captivating love story.

Author Blurb Maggie Shipstead, author of Seating Arrangements
Captivating ... A brilliantly imagined and lovingly told story about the wide world beyond the margins and outside the parlors of Pride and Prejudice.

Reader Reviews

Leslie D.

Truly original Austen take
The list of homages and continuations of Austen novels seems endless, but Baker's new novel centered around the servants of the Bennet household (Pride & Prejudice) is truly new and original. Even more, it's audacious in its interpretation of a ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Rinse and Repeat: Laundry in the Nineteenth Century

In Longbourn, the housemaid Sarah's frustration with the laundry would have been shared by anyone who cleaned clothes during the early 19th century. Our modern process of sorting, dumping into a machine, pouring in soap, and pressing a button is an embarrasingly wonderful diminution of this once complicated and time-intensive process.

Nineteenth Century Woman Doing Laundry, Henry Robert Morland Doing the laundry during this period was such a daunting task that even mistresses of households that employed servants often pitched in. The wealthier families were able to employ servants who, like Sarah, focused mainly on laundry duties. For most families without dedicated laundresses, two days a week were set aside for doing laundry. Washing, boiling, and rinsing a standard load of laundry required ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Jo Baker

If you liked Longbourn, try these:

  • Beautiful Little Fools jacket

    Beautiful Little Fools

    by Jillian Cantor

    Published 2022

    About this book

    More by this author

    USA Today bestselling author Jillian Cantor reimagines and expands on the literary classic The Great Gatsby in this atmospheric historical novel with echoes of Big Little Lies, told in three women's alternating voices.

  • The Jane Austen Society jacket

    The Jane Austen Society

    by Natalie Jenner

    Published 2021

    About this book

    Just after the Second World War, in the small English village of Chawton, an unusual but like-minded group of people band together to attempt something remarkable.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    by Sidik Fofana
    'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?' ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...
  • Book Jacket: Moth
    Moth
    by Melody Razak
    On August 15, 1947, India gained independence from the United Kingdom, and on that same day the ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.