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Longbourn

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  23,804 ratings  ·  4,412 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, 332 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Knopf (first published January 1st 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)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Diane Librarian
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
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 18, 2014 Deborah Markus rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
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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Mummy
May 05, 2015 Mummy rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Mummy 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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eb
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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Meredith
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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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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Gary  the Bookworm
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
The Library Lady
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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Holliekins
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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Bronwyn Mcloughlin
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 1 of 5 stars
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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Dianna
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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Tim
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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Kate Forsyth
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
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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Joanne
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
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Cathleen
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
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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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
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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Random House of Canada
I read this manuscript on submission to the editor and as soon as I finished it I told her she had to acquire it! Longbourn is the story of all the help you don’t see or hear about in Jane Austen’s classic Pride & Prejudice. It’s a love story, war story and excellent historical fiction! For fans of the original there are lots of great tidbits that will surprise you, for those of you that haven’t ever read P&P (me!) it’s a lovely introduction to the world of Austen, if you are a Downton A ...more
Elizabeth Heritage
Reposted from http://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a fanfiction author in possession of a Pride and Prejudice story must be in want of a publisher - not to mention a movie studio.

It is an extraordinary tribute to Jane Austen and the power of her writing that now, two centuries on, readers and writers across the globe are still wanting to inhabit the world she created in Pride and Prejudice. There is a strong tradition of sequels, translations and reinven
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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.

All the well-known characters are out of focus here; probably the best moment was when Mrs. Hill was anxious to please Mr. Collins, the future landlord, but Collins himself? Was not the Collins of Austen's work. Baker could as easily have make up a gentry family for her tale about hard-working servants and their lives as hidden from t
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Cher
3 stars - It was good.

Longbourn is not a retelling of Pride and Prejudice but rather a thoughtful exploration of the lives of the poor people of Regency England, told through the eyes of the servants that worked at the home of the beloved Bennets. The author does a wonderful job of illustrating the class differences, particularly in how these people surely wondered, is this all that there is? They spent all day taking care of their employer's home and things, while very few of them could ever ho
...more
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Jo Baker was born in Lancashire. She was educated at Oxford and at Queen's University, Belfast, where she completed a PhD on the work of the Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen. Her first novel, Offcomer, was published by William Heinemann in 2001. Her second book, The Mermaid's Child, is was published in August 2004. Jo Baker has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been includ ...more
More about Jo Baker...
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“Things could change so entirely, in a heartbeat; the world could be made entirely anew, because someone was kind.” 46 likes
“Life was, Mrs. Hill had come to understand, a trial by endurance, which everybody, eventually, failed.” 23 likes
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