Longbourn by Jo Baker
Reviewed by Laura Richardson,
Genealogy & Local History Librarian
I like Pride and Prejudice just the way it is, so I approached this new version by Jo Baker with caution. Furthermore, I’m suspicious of this rash of writings that claim to be “for fans of Downton Abbey”, which, of course, I’m also quite attached to. While Longbourn is a familiar story retold by those in service, this telling is at least as rich and real as the first.
Sarah, the Bennets’ housemaid, boils and stitches and observes, opening up Longbourn and allowing the reader to see clearly inside. From Sarah’s vantage point and others’, the Bennet ladies have new dimensions. Wickham is more deeply villainous. I even felt a little sorry for awkward Mr. Collins. James the footman appears as a new character, but seems as though he has always been a part of the tale, poised to turn heads and hearts. The story is spun in such a fascinating way, especially the threads surrounding the housekeeper, Mrs. Hill, a woman with more secrets than one might imagine. The peace she makes with her circumstances is one of the loveliest parts of the story.
If you want to be dropped down into a world where small details speak great truths, sometimes gentle, sometimes brutal, then I recommend this book to you — whether or not you are a fan of Jane Austen.
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