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Longbourn

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3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  31,638 Ratings  ·  5,386 Reviews
Pride and Prejudice was only half the 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
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Hardcover, 352 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Knopf (first published 2013)
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Judith This is mentioned much earlier in the book, subtly, easy to miss. Loved the sentences toward the end where his body is discovered and decorously…more This is mentioned much earlier in the book, subtly, easy to miss. Loved the sentences toward the end where his body is discovered and decorously arranged before it is moved into the house. (less)
Janet Carroll Well, I think having read Pride and Prejudice is a good preparation for Longbourn because it gives the reader a different perspective which I believe…moreWell, I think having read Pride and Prejudice is a good preparation for Longbourn because it gives the reader a different perspective which I believe to be an essential part of the theme. Many of us do not stop and consider how those who serve us suffer. Ever been in a restaurant with someone who humiliated a waitress or stiffed the tip? Or with someone impossible to please? In any case, having read P & P would be the prep regardless of the age.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Diane
Dec 04, 2013 Diane rated it it was amazing
It's become a cliche to love Jane Austen's books. Her oeuvre is so popular that it has inspired a vast amount of fan fiction, much of it crap. I've been a Janeite for about 15 years and have read all of Miss Austen's works (excepting her Juvenilia, which I'm saving for a rainy day). I've also picked up dozens of the fan novels in an effort to extend the stay in her world. I say "picked up" rather than read, because a great deal of the fanfic is insufferable and must be tossed after the first cha ...more
Emily
May 16, 2015 Emily rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013, fiction, review-copy
Unfortunately I found this to be a stuffy contemporary literary novel in historical clothing, with none of the brio of Austen's own style and little insight to contribute about the characters or story of Pride and Prejudice.

There's not much logic in how the plot of this book fits in with the above-stairs developments of Pride and Prejudice. The action of Longbourn doesn't consist of previously unseen repercussions of those familiar events, nor does it posit any new motives or influences that pro
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Deborah Markus
Sep 05, 2015 Deborah Markus rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people who feel too happy, people who treat servants like ish
Hoo, boy.

Where do I start?

Actually, that's easy. Any review of Longbourn should feature this warning right at the top: If you are an Austen purist, this book will give you a stroke and a heart attack and possibly cancer.

So there's that.

Oh, also: Any novel written by a non-servant is apparently required by law to feature at least one passage in which a character who is a servant will ponder life as a person of leisure and decide, "Naw. Overrated."

Yeah. THAT happened.

I wanted to adore this book
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Emma
Dec 26, 2013 Emma rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
You'll think that I'm being silly and hyperbolic when I say books like this are the purpose that historical fiction is meant to serve but I mean it very sincerely. Don't pick this book up wanting to swoon over Elizabeth and Darcy, or expecting the narrative focus to be on the story Austen told in P&P. It's not about that. It's about giving voice to the voiceless, fleshing out the ghosts that would otherwise fade and be shred to pieces before the onslaught of time.

Blue coat, black horse: tha
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Margaret Sullivan
(Reposted from my review at AustenBlog)

The publication of Jo Baker’s new novel Longbourn generated the same sort of excitement as the arrival of a single gentleman of good fortune. It has been described as being a cross between Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey. When we heard this premise, we were all admiration. What a brilliant idea! Two of the most wildly popular and well-known popular culture properties–now together! It might be the greatest idea since some genius combined chocolate and
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Rebecca Foster
Jane Austen meets Downton Abbey is the crude shorthand, but this novel is so much more. I hardly dare say it (Janeites are a fearsome bunch; such talk could get me lynched): Could this be better than the original? Pride and Prejudice, that is. Perhaps better is not the right word, but fuller: Baker’s is a fully convincing and unbiased vision of early nineteenth-century English life, featuring multiple classes and races – and it doesn’t airbrush away unpleasant bodily realities.

Longbourn is (for
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Petra X
May 05, 2015 Petra X rated it did not like it
Recommended to Petra X by: deborah markus
I read five chapters and then I admitted defeat. I threw up my arms through a sea of frothy pink fluff and pushed it aside and emerged, if not a better person, then at least a relieved one with one less cloud in my world.

To be fair, I'm not the audience for any kind of romance except perhaps classics. But I am fascinated with Jane Austen and having recently read A.A. Milne's superlative stage play Miss Elizabeth Bennet, I felt I would like to read more books directly descended from Pride and Pre
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Meredith
Nov 21, 2013 Meredith rated it did not like it
The best word to describe this book is unpleasant. It was a very unpleasant reading experience. But I can and will be more specific.

First of all, technically, this is a Pride and Prejudice retelling from the point of view of the Longbourn servants. Good idea, right? I sure thought so. And honestly, there are some very good things in here. I was very interested in hearing what kind of daily tasks made the Bennett lifestyle possible. There's also a few great parts where you really see how much th
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eb
Jun 13, 2013 eb rated it it was amazing
I adore Jane Austen, and I was dreading reading this take on Pride & Prejudice from the servants' point of view. I thought it was a crass cash-grab on Baker's part, and that I'd spend the entire novel longing to reread P & P. I couldn't have been more wrong! I got entirely wrapped up in the story of Sarah, a servant at Longbourn, and felt impatient even with brief mentions of favorite characters (Jane, Elizabeth), who seemed selfish, boring, and clueless because of their wealth. Cruciall ...more
Julie
Three and a Half Stars.

In the Author’s Note at the end of Longbourn, Jo Baker writes,
One final note: in Pride and Prejudice the footman appears just once in the text, when he delivers a note to Jane (page 31 of Volume One, in my Penguin Classics edition). After that, he is never mentioned again.

Well, that is an undeniable fact. But what are we to glean from this tidbit? That Baker found her inspiration from this one tiny glimmer into the world behind the scenes? That Austen was remiss in show
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The Library Lady
Feb 16, 2014 The Library Lady rated it it was amazing
Attention anyone who wants to think of Jane Austenland as pretty-pretty with no blood, sweat, sex (in any form at all) and magical elves to do the housework:
AVOID THIS BOOK

Still with me?

This book includes discussions of soiled diapers and menstrual napkins--well,no washing machines, let alone Pampers or Tampax! And there is a mention of underarm hair, something which clearly should shock any modern man or woman of "normal" proclivities.

Speaking of which, there are sexual practices mentioned in t
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Delee
"What can a woman do, all on her own, and unsupported?" asks Elizabeth. "Work," the maid answers.

I was worried that I wasn't going to be able to keep up with the characters in LONGBOURN without having a re-read of Pride and Prejudice, but luckily there wasn't a need...

 photo 7a003392-af72-4aaa-8ba6-aafa53be4856_zpsb58bebf0.jpg

LONGBOURN is a novel based on the servants in the beloved Bennet household- I have to say reading about the Bennet family from the point of view of the people waiting on them hand and foot- made them come off quite spoiled and a l
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Holliekins
Aug 17, 2014 Holliekins rated it did not like it
When I first heard about Longbourn - a kind of Downton Abbey meets Pride and Prejudice, telling the stories of the staff serving The Bennet family - I was very excited and couldn't wait to start reading. I was very fortunate to receive an early proof copy a few months back and eagerly began to read while on a break in Devon. I wanted to love it. I ended up feeling the complete opposite...

I am a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice. I read it about once a year to enjoy the wit, romance and the cast o
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Gary  the Bookworm
Mar 11, 2014 Gary the Bookworm rated it really liked it
Dirty linen might seem like a unsavory topic in a novel set in Regency England, but when the linen belongs to the Bennet family from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice it makes for good reading. Jo Baker's Longbourn is told from the perspective of the downstairs staff: two house maids, the housekeeper, her butler husband, and a mysterious, newly-hired footman. By modern standards this might seem like a excessive number of servants, but in Nineteenth Century England, five menstruating daughters, n ...more
Bronwyn Mcloughlin
Feb 23, 2014 Bronwyn Mcloughlin rated it really liked it
This is an historical novel, a well crafted one, that gives Austen's original a context. Pride and prejudice is vaguely set during the era of the Napoleonic wars, in Regency England. Beyond the necessity of the militia as an essential plot device, there is little to establish a time period or political context. This not a failing : the intent in P & P is to examine, play with, lampoon and explore the personalities, social niceties and constrictions of a certain family, a certain class of peo ...more
Sian
May 30, 2013 Sian rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2013
I liked P&P but not a huge Jane Austen fan so didn't go into this feeling all precious about its predecessor.
I really wanted to enjoy this book but just couldn't. The swearing is totally out of place, the liberties taken with the characters from P&P are unbelievably awful (sorry) basically feels like Jo Baker is trying desperately to be controversial but it doesn't work. The main character is very likeable and if this had been a stand alone novel about servants at the time (minus the swe
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Tim
Apr 24, 2015 Tim rated it it was amazing
There is an ocean of Austen fan fiction out there, and no book is more extended than Pride and Prejudice. We love to read what happens to Elizabeth and Darcy, whether it's her doughty fight against the undead or how they deal with truly-dead bodies at Pemberley.

This book would stand with the best of them. Our hopes are dashed and restored and dashed again. We get love, redemption, missteps, the vile Wickham, and not knowing whether there will be a happy ending until the very end. And the writing
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Sherwood Smith
I usually avoid Pride and Prejudice sequels, prequels, mashups, and detective novels, because no one gets Austen's sardonic wit, no one. And that includes Jo Baker.

The most believable bit in the book was touted in the blurb, the bit about Elizabeth's famous petticoat being six inches deep in mud, which made extra work for the maids.

But otherwise the well-known characters are out of focus. I found the most believable moment when Mrs. Hill was anxious to please Mr. Collins, the future landlord. Bu
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Dianna
Aug 26, 2013 Dianna rated it it was ok
Shelves: first-reads
The good: I found this to be a beautifully written and well-imagined re-telling of Pride and Prejudice. I enjoyed seeing what a servant's day would be like, and the "behind-the-scenes" look at a rich family's life. I liked Sarah as a character and it was easy to root for her.

The bad: Lots of yucky/evil things were discussed, and although they generally weren't described in gory detail (thank you), it was just too much.

The ugly: I understand that servants and soldiers had to deal with dirty and s
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Kate Forsyth
Aug 14, 2013 Kate Forsyth rated it it was amazing
What a brilliant premise this book has! Did you ever wonder – when reading Pride & Prejudice - about the lives of the servants toiling away quietly downstairs? No, me either. Jo Baker did wonder, however, and from that imagining has spun a beautiful, intense, heart-wrenching tale. Do not expect the wit and charm of Jane Austen; do not expect the well-beloved characters to be lauded. In fact, most of the cast of Pride & Prejudice come off badly – some are selfish and narcissistic, others ...more
Kathryn Class
Dec 03, 2013 Kathryn Class rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio-book
Have you ever thought an author was a good writer, but you didn't like the story they were telling? That's how I feel about this book. The author is good at writing (except for some places that had lengthy and very detailed descriptions. I'm not too interested in that, unless it's historical fiction. That's when I want all the nitty gritty details - of the actual events.)
I don't like how she made the Bennett family seem shallow and ... I don't know... It just seed like the author wants to knock
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Meredith (Austenesque Reviews)
TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Minor Character, Retelling

TIME FRAME: Covers the same timespan as Pride and Prejudice with a couple of months after

MAIN CHARACTERS: Sarah (maid), Polly (younger maid), Mr. and Mrs. Hill (butler and housekeeper), James Smith (new, mysterious footman), Ptolemy Bingley (footman at Netherfield)

WHY I WANTED TO READ THIS NOVEL: This book was described by many as a cross between Pride and Prejudice and Downton Abbey...enough said! ;) In all seriousness, I love seeing our belo
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Joanne
Jan 07, 2014 Joanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: austen-inspired
We all hear of new releases that generate a great deal of excitement in the book community...for me, I was intrigued by the buzz created by Janeites for Jo Baker's Longbourn, a P&P inspired tale told from the servants point-of-view. This could be a most entertaining reading experience! Feeling right at home with the characters and events we all know and love in P&P, I couldn't wait to see how this different perspective would reshape the plot.

The truth of the matter is, frankly, the downs
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Emily
Jo Baker explores what Pride and Prejudice might look like from the servants' point of view and does a masterful job. Suddenly the life of the Bennets, which seems rather humble when compared to the Bingleys and Darcys, is cast in a different light when seen from the point of view of the people who work day and night to keep the household running smoothly.

Baker weaves in and out of the Pride and Prejudice storyline just enough that the reader can mark his/her place in the timeline, before puttin
...more
Naoms


Originally posted on Confessions of an Opinionated Book Geek

I did not finish this book. I couldn’t, because I am too big of a Jane Austen fan and this is a cross between fan fiction and a historical soapbox. Everything that could have happened to a lower class person in Regency England happens in this book. It’s filled with so many events, it’s melodramatic.

This book did not need to be set in the Bennet household. It could have been any household in any historical time where there was a below st
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Cathleen
Sep 22, 2013 Cathleen rated it did not like it
Is my face red. I promoted this book during summer presentations, in spite of the fact I've grown skeptical of any work that claims to reinvent another narrative -- most especially when that involves Austen. However, the hook on this seemed fresh, and the early chapters offered some promise. I even likened it to the model of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, wherein familiar characters wander in and out of the background as we readers follow a different story with its own perspective. That ...more
Antigone
Mar 15, 2016 Antigone rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I came to Pride and Prejudice late in the game. Late enough to recognize the constriction of that country life, the importance of the sudden appearance of a wealthy bachelor, the wisdom in making the most of such serendipitous opportunities and, to my dark amusement, the many maternal similarities between Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Kardashian. My eye was not quite as wide to the world when I picked up this novel, and I think it's important to mention that. I would imagine those who had a deeper and mo ...more
Chaitra
The question I have is would I have liked Longbourn better, had it not had anything to do with Austen? I love Austen, and Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books ever. I was never going to go into an adaptation/retelling/spinoff of this book with an unbiased mind. And there are no such books that I've read that I felt were necessary or which brought anything new to the table. Longbourn on the other hand, had an interesting premise. It's Pride and Prejudice meets Downton Abbey, and even t ...more
Mij Woodward
Dec 21, 2013 Mij Woodward rated it really liked it
I apologize to readers of this review, as you will be scratching your head and thinking, "huh?" You will see those four stars, and then read in my review how happy I was to finally finish this book!

Huh?

I don't get it either. So, I'll just list what I loved and what I did not love, and see if we can figure this out:

What I LOVED was learning about the servant class in England during this time (Napoleonic wars). I was blown away, as I hadn't ever really thought about some of the details, like empt
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Emmy
Aug 25, 2015 Emmy rated it liked it
So I was kind of torn on what to rate this as I went through several stages of this book.

Part I = Stage 1
Ok, this isn't bad. I like that Baker is focusing on the periphery characters from Pride and Prejudice (I can't stand when authors try to write sequels for other people's books because I find they just can't do justice to the original characters). She mostly mentions only the unformed characters from P&P (Mrs. Hill and Sarah) and made up others (Mr. Hill, James & Polly) that could ha
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Jo Baker is the author of six novels, most recently Longbourn and A Country Road, A Tree. She has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies. She lives in Lancaster, England, with her husband, the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, and their two children.
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“Things could change so entirely, in a heartbeat; the world could be made entirely anew, because someone was kind.” 49 likes
“Life was, Mrs. Hill had come to understand, a trial by endurance, which everybody, eventually, failed.” 29 likes
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