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.
REVIEW: ‘Longbourn’ is a story that centers on the downstairs members of the home of the Bennet family as in Elizabeth Bennet of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ fame.
We meet Sarah, a housemaid and her younger helper Polly, along with Mr. and Mrs. Hill, the butler and housekeeper. While the Bennet family is not extremely wealthy, they are comfortable.
We see the daily grind that the servants must face with the constant and endless chores that exhaust them and wreak havoc on their bodies. When a young man named James Smith comes looking for work, the downstairs members are happy to have him help with many of the chores. He works as footman and driver and jack of all trades for the family.
Before long, an attraction starts between Sarah and James. The underlying story of his background starts to slowly unravel as the book goes on keeping the reader totally mesmerized. Without giving out any secrets about the ending of this book, suffice it to say it surprised me and all ends came together beautifully.
The author’s ability to describe the daily grind of each member of the downstairs truly makes the reader realize how difficult the servant’s life was. Her descriptive talents left me awed. As well, we have peeks into the lives of each member of the Bennet family which makes one feel like they have been privy to secrets that others were not.
I highly recommend this book whether you are a ‘Pride and Prejudice’ or Jane Austin fan. It’s a fabulous story and one you won’t soon forget.
Connie for b2b
*Book provided by my local library.