Jo Baker – Longbourn (2013)

LongbournA recent addition to the genre of “Pride and Prejudice fiction,” Jo Baker’s Longbourn is a literary joy in itself. Baker centers her plot around the characters only fleetingly mentioned in Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. She gives them all names (the only servant named in Pride and Prejudice is Mrs. Hill) and stories, bringing the Bennett’s house, Longbourn, to life. Baker’s cast includes Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper and cook, her husband Mr. Hill, a butler, James, a footman, and two servant girls, Polly and Sarah. While Sarah is the main protagonist of the story, the ensemble all interacts to make this novel a charming read.

While the novel starts as a swift read, the plot really picks up in the last 80 pages or so. In the last quarter of the novel you witness the characters pain and suffering as well as just how little they matter to the sisters living upstairs. It’s a true upstairs/downstairs story and a wonderful insight into Austin’s world, the part of which she ignored.

Even those who haven’t read Pride and Prejudice will fall in love with the characters in this book and be able to follow along without a problem. For those that have read the book, it might make you think about the characters you did fall in love with and read between the lines.

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