review: Longbourn by Jo Baker

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by Jo Baker

Pride and Prejudice through the servants’ eyes—this is the story of the life of Sarah, the maid in charge of the laundry and other various chores of the Bennet household, coinciding with the events from Austen’s original.

Sarah began as an orphan from the ‘poorhouse’, taken under Mrs. Hill’s wing and raised at Longbourn. Of an age with Elizabeth, she most closely relates to the second daughter, though the difference in position between the Bennet sisters and the maid is starkly portrayed. Sarah spends a good amount of time resenting her duties while the daughters of the house thoughtlessly soil their clothes and shoes, discarding them without realizing the time and effort required to clean them.

Sarah has two love interests; James Smith, the newly hired footman with a mysterious past, and, Ptolemy, one of Bingley’s servants who hopes to start his own business in London. As the P&P timeline unfolds in the background, this story—the one you’d think comparatively boring—is a page-turning and engaging tale, worthy of any Austen fan’s praise.

Longbourn could be read without knowledge of Austen’s novel, however, those familiar with the characters will catch the nuances and feel more comfortable with the untold facts. If you’re looking for an Austen variation that deviates from the romanticized Regency theme and focuses more on the lower classes, this is an excellent choice!