Book Review: Longbourn by Jo Baker
I had been in a book rut for most of the summer. I tried a few different books and just could not find one that was interesting. As I was browsing through Instagram looking for recommendations, I came across "Longbourn" by Jo Baker a couple of times. I had heard of it, but I honestly didn't know anything about it. So, I turned to my trusty library's website and looked it up. I was intrigued, and it was available, so Finn and I packed up and went and got it that day.
"Longbourn" is set in the same place and time as Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice" (a book I love, love, love). However, it is told from the perspective of the servants who run the house at Longbourn, which the Bennett family inhabits. It primarily follows the maid, Sarah, but the housekeeper, Mrs. Hill, is also prominent.
I think that Jo Baker, the author, does a great job of telling a unique story while completely transporting the reader back to Jane Austen's beloved world of Longbourn. I greatly appreciated that she did not focus too much on the Bennett family or the interactions that took place in "Pride & Prejudice". Jo is able to accurately portray the original Austen characters and perfectly intertwine details from the original story into the new story she creates for her characters. The overlap of the stories is perfection, and she exercises skillful restraint in leaving out details that the servants would not have been privy to and likely would not have cared about.
I also appreciated that Jo was able to offer some critique of the original Austen characters without coming off as complaining. She did not in any way tarnish the Bennetts by taking up the servants' story, nor did she pit the servants against the Bennett family. She does include frustrations that the servants likely would have felt, such as Sarah's frustration on wash day that Elizabeth had gotten so much mud on her petticoats. It's a fair criticism and also speaks to Jo's intimate knowledge of the Austen characters, which adds further depth to her book.
I greatly enjoyed seeing the story unfold and at points, was not sure what would happen next. I felt genuine care and concern for Sarah and Mrs. Hill. I was intrigued by the character, James. I felt the ending was fair and interesting. The story was engrossing from beginning to end, and to be honest, I was a little sad when I finished the book. I would have liked to have continued on with Sarah's story for much longer if it had been possible.
On the whole, "Longbourn" was a quick read, and I would recommend it if someone is looking for a period piece with a little romance and endearing characters.
I should note that if you have not read "Pride & Prejudice", I highly recommend it to you. Also, I think you could read "Longbourn" and follow along without having read "Pride & Prejudice" first. I think you would more deeply appreciate "Longbourn" if you have read "Pride & Prejudice", but I don't think it is a requirement. The two stories can stand alone in many ways.
Finally, if you liked "Pride & Prejudice" and are looking for something set in the same world, I think you would enjoy this book as well. Jo, the author, does a great job of telling a new story, while interweaving details from Jane Austen's book. As the reader, you very much feel that you are at the Longbourn estate.
If you have read "Longbourn", I would love to hear your thoughts. From what I could tell of the reviews online, people seem to really like it or really dislike it.