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3.64  ·  Rating details ·  52,147 ratings  ·  7,674 reviews
'If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats,' Sarah thought, 'she would be more careful not to tramp through muddy fields.'

It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah's hands are chapped and raw. Domestic life below stairs, ruled with a tender heart and an iron will by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a
Paperback, 443 pages
Published January 1st 2014 by Black Swan (first published October 8th 2013)
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Danielle Adult. Some pretty yucky war stuff and intimacy. Not for kids.
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
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 arra…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)

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Average rating 3.64  · 
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 ·  52,147 ratings  ·  7,674 reviews

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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
Deborah Markus
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2013, 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
Dec 22, 2013 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: that wa
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
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
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nataliya by: nastya
Shelves: 2020-reads
When Lizzie Bennet went traipsing through the muddy fields¹ mooning over Mr. Darcy, someone had to do wash those muddy petticoats. When Mrs. Bennet was fainting from the strain of arranging suitable marriages for her countless daughters, someone had to fetch the smelling salts.
While the ladies of the Bennet family spent their time in the leisurely fashion of gentlewomen, in music and sewing and art and dancing and attracting promisingly rich husbands, someone had to run the household, cook e
Petra X is enjoying a road trip across the NE USA
Aug 06, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Petra X is enjoying a road trip across the NE USA 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
Nov 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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:

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
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
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been a huge fan of Jane Austen since the age of 13 and have throughout the years read different authors interesting interpretations on her well beloved stories. Some have been good and more than a few have been outrageously bad. Despite it all, I just cannot stop myself from continuing to try them all out. That is why I can say with great confidence that if I could give this book 10 stars, I would.

Jo Baker provides readers with a fresh take on the well loved story of "Pride and Prejudic
Jun 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. Crucially, this ...more
"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...

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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 sp
Gary  the Bookworm
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Katie Lumsden
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book - a great retelling, a detailed and atmospheric historical novel, with engaging characters and a brilliant plot. I would highly recommend.
Simona B

The premise is interesting. It is. I also enjoyed the first part; but after a while, the story started to drag on and on, and I started to not see the point of it anymore.

Some of the things that happen are completely -or almost- inconsequential. In addition, the story supposedly focuses on Sarah, one of the two housemaids of the Bennets' household. The thing is, sometimes the focus shifts, at length and in detail, to the Bennets themselves, which, I think, was rather useless if our concern
Wee Lassie
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It's one of the few, if only, retellings of Pride & Prejudice in which you leave liking Mr. Collins far more than Elizabeth Bennet. ...more
May 30, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 sweating an
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 people ...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
Nov 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
This story tells the story of Pride and Prejudice from the viewpoint of the servant’s in the Bennett’s household; the stories are told in parallel with every overlap between the two worlds exactly based on the book.

A brilliant book – compelling its own right but outstanding due to the alternate side of Pride and Prejudice that it presents, not just the poverty and the war but even in some of the characters (e.g. Mr Collins is a more sympathetic character to the servants, not to blame for his own
Aug 19, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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

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
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
Kathryn Class
Oct 21, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
I have been toying with the idea of giving this two stars. Why? Because I very much like Jo Baker's prose. The book does have many gorgeous lines. Poetic lines. Lines of wisdom that sometimes express views I share, but I certainly do not agree with the line: (view spoiler) ...more
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 merely o ...more
Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?!!

Pride and Prejudice, meet your new counterpart, Chilblains and Chamberpots!

It’s always risky when an author decides to piggyback on an existing novel. I’m not in any way, shape or form a purist; I didn’t embark on Longbourn feeling particularly protective of its predecessor. But I just can’t abide stale cloying romances masquerading as gritty historical fiction, regardless of whether it has anything to do with Pride and Prejudice or not.

I feel so
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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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