Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Book Review: Longbourn by Jo Baker

Jo Baker
Historical Fiction
Published: 2013 

In Pride & Prejudice, the Bennet family is presented as modest among the higher classes of Darcy and Bingley. However, the Bennets employed house staff who managed all of their cooking and cleaning. This is a family of girls who do not know physical labor or hardship in a real sense. Longbourn shows us the working class side of regency England. The downstairs of Downton Abbey, if you will. It brings new light to our favorite whip-smart heroine Elizabeth when her maids constantly scrub her dirty petticoats and scrape mud from her boots. 

The characters lean toward source material, though the house staff clearly have their own story. What I found interesting is how the house staff perceives Mr. Collins; he is still odd, but kind, and pitied more for being lonely. He is not portrayed as a total fool, possibly given how he addresses the staff like they are real people, which at the time was considered beneath his standing. Even Mary is considered more thoughtfully, not as a hopeless case future spinster, but as a faithful daughter who will secure a place for the elder house staff at Longbourn after the other sisters have gone off and married. Marriage of the Bennet sisters is bittersweet for those employed by the family; once the household shrinks, loss of their job is a very real threat.

With very capable and often lovely writing, Longourn shows P&P in a different light, and not at the expense of the original story.


  1. It reminds me a bit of the old BBC/PBS show Upstairs, Downstairs. Sometimes the hired help has a more interesting story than the upper-class people they're employed by.

  2. Great review! This is not my usual genre but I know a person or 2 who might like this one :)

  3. This is the second time I've read a review of LONGBOURN in the last couple weeks. I'm starting to think I need to give it a read. I find it interesting that the perspectives on both Mr. Collins and Mary are different in this book. I like the idea of another angle on Mr. Collins especially, because he really does come across as a bumbling fool in the original book and every movie version. Thanks for sharing this review!

  4. I had mixed feelings about this one. I liked the gritty realism of how life was like downstairs and I enjoyed the new takes on Mary and Mr. Collins. But as a die-hard fan of P & P, I didn't like how some of my favorite characters, especially Mr. Bennett and Elizabeth were portrayed.

    1. I can see that. Most reviews I scanned mentioned if you are loyal to the original you might have issues. I was able to view it more at arms length and saw it as how a different set of characters viewed the world. It's certainly a less flattering look at the Bennets as a whole, but Lizzie and Jane have redeeming moments that show their character. The class issues are a huge factor though.

  5. I've got this one on my shelves and I'm looking forward to it. Good to see a positive review!


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