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Longbourn Paperback – 2 Jan 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 643 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan (2 Jan. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552779512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552779517
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (643 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Inspired...Baker has written an intoxicating love story but, also like Austen, the pleasure of her novel lies in its wit and fierce intelligence. Longbourn is a profound exploration of injustice, of poverty and dependence, of loyalty...a novel that contrives both to provoke the intellect and, ultimately, to stop the heart" (Guardian)

"Jo Baker gives us the story from the servants' perspectives and pulls off the seemingly impossible: a completely fresh take on Jane Austen. Utterly engrossing." (Guardian)

"ONES TO WATCH Just enough Darcy to delight, as well as being a fascinating insight into the harsh working conditions of life in a grand house 200 years ago" (Good Housekeeping)

"Debut novelist Jo Baker takes the reader on a journey back to a version of Regency England that is as much about poverty and war as social comedy and romance" (Metro)

"This clever glimpse of Austen’s universe clouded by washday steam is so compelling it leaves you wanting to read the next chapter in the lives below stairs" (Daily Express)

"GREAT READS: Pride and Prejudice reimagined as a mysterious manservant stirs up passions in the Bennet household both upstairs and down" (Woman and Home)

"Captivating and delicious. A brilliantly imagined and lovingly told story about the wide world beyond the margins and outside the parlours of Pride and Prejudice" (Maggie Shipstead, author of SEATING ARRANGEMENTS)

"The much-loved Pride and Prejudice is shaken up and given the grit that Jane Austen could never include - with great success" (Evening Standard)

"A novelist with a gift for intimate and atmospheric storytelling" (Financial Times)

"Superb... The lightest of touches by a highly accomplished young writer" (Mail on Sunday)

"Some writers let you know you're in safe hands from the start, and Jo Baker is one of them." (Independent)

"Splendid...Baker’s imaginative leaps are stunningly well done both historically (the scenes set at the siege of Corunna are terrific) and emotionally...What a great film it will make (the rights sold early); the well-loved novel shaken up and given the grit which Jane Austen could never include." (Evening Standard)

"To twist something so familiar into something quite fresh is impressive…Baker takes ownership of this world without mimicking Austen’s style, asserting instead her own distinctive, authentic voice. Longbourn is not just nicely packaged fan fiction, or an Austenian Downton Abbey; it’s an engrossing tale we neither know nor expect." (Daily Telegraph)

"An Austen lover has the satisfaction of matching the novels chapter for chapter. Lovely." (Observer)

"Longbourn is a fantastic feat of imagination, unflinching in its portrayal of war and the limitations of life for a servant – a novel you will want to shelve with the original classics you plan to read again and again." (Psychologies)

"What bravery to take Pride And Prejudice as the springboard for a new novel! Bravery or, in the wrong hands, foolishness.
However, in relating Jane Austen’s best-loved tale from the perspective of the Bennet family’s servants, Jo Baker takes a fresh angle on a story that millions of diehard fans know inside out." (Sunday Express)

"Her depiction of the brutal realities of army life - a world away from the jolly officers of Austen's novel - is particularly powerful. Indeed, a burning sense of injustice is palpable throughout the book ... Sarah's story is so compelling that I kept forgetting that one of literature's most famous love stories was happening upstairs ... moving, gripping, unsentimental" (Irish Times)

"Longbourn is a really special book, and not only because its author writes like an angel" (Daily Mail)

"A must-read for fans of Jane Austen, this literary tribute also stands on its own as a captivating love story" (Publisher's Weekly)

"Painstakingly researched, it captures the atmosphere of Austen’s England perfectly and is delivered in beautiful prose" (Sunday Mirror)

"Densely plotted and achingly romantic. This exquisitely reimagined Pride and Prejudice will appeal to Austen devotees and to anyone who finds the goings-on below stairs to be at least as compelling as the ones above" (Library Journal)

"Intelligent and elegantly written ... a fitting tribute, inventing a love story all of its own" (Wall Street Journal)

"Powerful...an especially appealing, and timely, reworking of the classic. Baker’s novel goes beyond escapist fantasy, drawing subtle comparisons between past and present" (New Yorker)

"A fresh and engrossing story from below the stairs of Pride and Prejudice" (Woman and Home)

Book Description

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice below stairs - the story of romance, intrigue, and drama among the servants of the Bennet household. A Richard & Judy Book Club pick.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
'There could be no wearing of clothes without laundering, just as surely as there could be no going without clothes, not in Hertfordshire anyway, and not in September.'

I liked the premise the opening sentence makes clear - seeing the events of Pride and Prejeudice from the point of view of the servants and gaining insight into the lives of the ordinary classes that Austen barely mentions. The novel opens well but is somewhat formulaic. It's as if Baker decided to make a list of what Jane Austen leaves out: war, politics, sex with overworked servants and then wrote a novel to address those. Clearly Austen didn't write state of the nation novels but her dialogue was great, her characters always believable, and her wit sparkling. Despite the current fashion of considering P&P to be chick lit, it is a sharply observed novel on one strata of society. It is pitch perfect. This novel strained my credulity - can you imagine Mr Collins having a chat about his choice of Bennet girl with a maid? For me, it added few new insights into Jane Austen's novel despite key references to slavery and fortunes made from sugar. Those are important issues, as were the difficulties of dismissed servants and I would have felt that more if Jo Baker had been able to simply concentrate on her own characters. I suppose that is the key point. A book like Wide Sargasso Sea (Penguin Modern Classics) casts new light back on our reading of Jane Eyre (Wordsworth Classics) and particularly its view of women and the exploitation of the colonies.
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Format: Kindle Edition
To contextualise: I am a big Austen fan and I teach "Pride and Prejudice" every year so I can be hard to please! For example, "Death Comes to Pemberley" was better on the TV in my opinion. What makes "Longbourn" a success is that it doesn't try to reimagine Elizabeth and Mr Darcy's courtship. In fact, the latter barely features which many will hate, but why the novel works. Baker also avoids massacring Austen's original characters - PD James's reworking of Colonel Fitzwilliam anyone? For diehard Lizzie Bennet and Mr Darcy fans - this is not for you. Naturally, both characters are remote. There will be some fans appalled by one or two plot twists involving Mrs Hill which are a bit more risqué. An enjoyable novel which tackles the criticism levelled at Austen: no awareness of the lower / servant classes, little awareness of the Napoleonic war and slavery / money from plantations. If you want more than 'P&P: The Redux' this is well worth your time.
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Format: Hardcover
Jane Austen is a favourite author of mine and, as such, I have always avoided reading any sequels, prequels or retellings of her novels, as I feel they would only disappoint - however Jo Baker's 'Longbourn' is something rather different and I must admit that I was pulled into this book from the very first pages. 'Longbourn' focuses on the lives of the servants who work for the Bennet family (from 'Pride and Prejudice') and the story is told almost entirely from the servants' perspective, so there is a lot of gritty 'downstairs' life and very little of the more genteel 'upstairs' variety.

In the servants' quarters we meet our main heroine, the housemaid Sarah, an attractive and determined young woman, similar in age to the older Bennet girls, but obviously leading a very different life. Then there is the cook/housekeeper, Mrs Hill (who has a painful secret she has had to keep hidden for years), her husband, Mr Hill, the butler (a man with secrets of his own) and lastly, twelve-year-old Polly, the kitchen maid. Into their busy, but quiet and uneventful lives arrives a new footman, James Smith, a dark, attractive man with a rather mysterious past, who finds himself falling for Sarah. However, Sarah, although initially attracted to James, feels a little rebuffed by his reluctance to discuss his past life, and consequently she finds herself becoming rather interested in the very good-looking Mulatto manservant, Ptolemy, who works for the Bingleys at Netherfield Park. But what is it that James is trying to hide from Sarah and should Sarah really be considering Ptolemy in a romantic light? (No spoilers, we learn most of this early on in the novel and there is a lot more for prospective readers to discover and enjoy).
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Format: Hardcover
Confession; I love Pride and Prejudice (not quite as much as Persuasion, but...) It's the book I've read and reread more than any other. So I must admit to more than a slice of apprehension on first reading Longbourn, in which Jo Baker tiptoes below stairs to reflect the servants' story. I need not have worried. Baker takes the original and respectfully, assuredly serves up a new tale full of hope, betrayal, anxiety, war and (yes) while the Bennet family play out their own histories upstairs. This is very much a fresh and completely satisfying entire novel all its own, with Baker's own voice. We have a new, richly drawn heroine and hero, not without their own flaws. There's no flinching from the grimier and grittier side of life in servitude, but there are so many light moments of hopefulness and blossoming romance that keep the reader turning the pages. One for Austen fans, yes, absolutely - but read it for itself, I really urge you. Longbourn deserves that and so much more. Wonderful!
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