[Review] Longbourn by Jo Baker
Author: Jo Baker
Publisher: Knopf October 8, 2013
Genre: Fiction, Servant Class, Pride and Prejudice Spin-off
The time period is the early 1800s, England. Sarah, a young woman is a housemaid employed by the Bennet family. The Bennet daughters are: Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty, Lydia. The Bennet family was the creation of Jane Austen, in the novel Pride and Prejudice. In Longbourn, the readers see behind the scenes and through the eyes of Sarah. Mrs. Hill, is in charge of the kitchen and housemaids, she was employed by Mr. Bennet before he married. Sarah daydreams while performing domestic chores; imagining life outside the constraint of Longbourn. A thin, haggard, young man begins working with the horses at Longbourn. Sarah is intrigued by him; however, she does not think he will fulfill her fanciful notion of love.
1. Narrative of the servants life. When Longbourn begins Sarah and another maid are doing the laundry. Their long day of scrubbing clothes with lie soap in bubbling hot water, scalded and burned their hands. With sweat dripping off their brow and their feet sore from standing all day, I felt I understood their condition of work.
2. Hidden plot with the Longbourn inhabitants. A secret has been in the family, well hidden. Most of the Bennet family is unaware. Those who know whisper to each other behind the door of domestic privacy. Most secrets become revealed in time and this makes for a twist.
1. I really wanted to like this book more than I did. Over the course of reading it I had moments of I hated it; I liked it. Odd for me to not sustain a solid feeling about a story. I love Pride and Prejudice. I love Downton Abbey. Longbourn is not a next chapter, nor another view of either. Longbourn does not follow the morality of Pride and Prejudice, nor the wit and charm of Downton Abbey's domestic staff. Longbourn's Bennet family is in the background, we are told of important events that correlate with Pride and Prejudice; however, the Bennet family is as dry and dull as particle board.
2. I've heard remarks from other reviewers about the smut in the story. I believe they are referring to a young girls "awakening" moment of arousal. Maybe, the author placed this scene in Longbourn to give it a sexual modern edge. I felt it was a posted scene, similar to using a post-it-note. I felt it was unnecessary, especially since later in the book a realistic sensual moment is expressed.
3. I was drawn-in to Mrs. Hill's story more than Sarah.