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Longbourn

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Longbourn

4.4 (2008)

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    Available in PDF Format | Longbourn.pdf | English
    Jo Baker(Author)

- 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, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants' hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen's classic--into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars--and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own.

"Captivating and delicious. A brilliantly imagined and lovingly told story about the wide world beyond the margins and outside the parlors of "Pride and Prejudice"." --Maggie Shipstead, author of "Seating Arrangements""Captivating . . . A brilliantly imagined and lovingly told story about the wide world beyond the margins and outside the parlors of "Pride and Prejudice"." --Maggie Shipstead, author of "Seating Arrangements""Jo Baker pulls off the seemingly impossible: a completely fresh take on Austen . . . Utterly engrossing." --"The Guardian""Irresistible . . . Sequels and prequels rarely add to the original, but Baker's simple yet inspired reimagining does. It has best-seller stamped all over it." --"Kirkus Reviews "(starred) "If "Longbourn "is received as a delicious concoction of "Pride and Prejudice" meets "Downton Abbey, "then, for commercial reasons, no one will feel sorry for Jo Baker, but for artistic ones, she will have been treated unfairly. Baker is a real and very fine writer, and "Longbourn" stands on its own as an engrossing, intelligent historical novel. At the same time, its resonances with "Pride and Prejudice" go much farther than its brilliantly plausible presentation of downstairs life: critics have long striven to prove that the great issues of Austen's time--slavery, war, enclosures--impinged on her work; Baker shows us the fermentation below the froth." --James Collins, author of "Beginner's Greek""A triumph: a splendid tribute to Austen's original but, more importantly, a joy in its own right, a novel that contrives both to provoke the intellect and, ultimately, to stop the heart . . . Like Austen, Baker has written an intoxicating love story but, also like Austen, the pleasure of her novel lies in its wit and fierce intelligence . . . Baker not only creates a richly imagined story of her own but recasts Austen's novel in a startlingly fresh light . . . Inspired." --"The Guardian" "Irresistible . . . Sequels and prequels rarely add to the original, but Baker's simple yet inspired reimagining does. It has best-seller stamped all over it." --"Kirkus Reviews "(starred) ""Longbourn "is a really special book, and not only because its author writes like an angel. Its real achievement is to circumnavigate the world of Austen knock-offs and return, like Francis Drake, with a hold full of treasure--a life of its own beyond its parent, "Pride and Prejudice ." . . There are some wildly sad and romantic moments; I was sobbing by the end . . . A beautiful book." --"Daily Mail "(UK)" ""Inspired . . . This is a genuinely fresh perspective on the tale of the Bennet household . . . A lot of fun." --"Sunday Times "(UK) "A splendid page-turner . . . The much-loved "Pride and Prejudice "is shaken up and given the grit that Jane Austen could never include--with great success . . . Baker's imaginative leaps are stunningly well done, both historically and emotionally." --"Evening Standard "(UK) "A must-read for fans of Austen, this literary tribute also stands on its own as a captivating love story . . . Baker takes many surprising risks in developing the relationships between the servants and the Bennets, but the end result steers clear of gimmick and flourishes as a respectful and moving retelling." --"Publishers Weekly "(starred) "Captivating . . . A brilliantly imagined and lovingly told story about the wide world beyond the margin"If you are a Jane Austen fan with a pronounced predilection for "Pride and Prejudice, "you will devour Jo Baker's ingenious "Longbourn "as the ambrosia from the Austen gods it is . . . It's an idea that could have felt derivative or sycophantic in its execution, and yet the novel is rich, engrossing, and filled with fascinating observation about the less glamorous side of the period . . . Dive in and you might even forget to watch "Downton Abbey."" --"O "magazine "An absorbing and moving story about the servants at Longbourn . . . Both original and charming, even gripping, in its own right . . . If Charlotte Bronte had taken up the challenge of a sequel to "Pride and Prejudice, "she might very well have hit upon the sort of broader, more sympathetic point of view Jo Baker has derived from the servants' quarters." --Diane Johnson, "New York Times Book Review" "A triumph: a splendid tribute to Austen's original but, more importantly, a joy in its own right, a novel that contrives both to provoke the intellect and, ultimately, to stop the heart . . . Like Austen, Baker has written an intoxicating love story but, also like Austen, the pleasure of her novel lies in its wit and fierce intelligence . . . Baker not only creates a richly imagined story of her own but recasts Austen's novel in a startlingly fresh light . . . Inspired." --"The Guardian" "Diehards who love Jane Austen and "Downton Abbey "will fan their corseted bosoms while tearing through this novel." --"Entertainment Weekly" "Irresistible . . . Sequels and prequels rarely add to the original, but Baker's simple yet inspired reimagining does. It has best-seller stamped all over it." --"Kirkus Reviews "(starred) ""Longbourn "is a really special book, and not only because its author writes like an angel. Its real achievement is to circumnavigate the world of Austen knock-offs and return, like Francis Drake, with a hold full of treasure"." . . There are some wildly sad and rom"Masterful . . . From the same stream that fed Austen's literary imagination, Baker has drawn forth something entirely new and fresh." --"Miami Herald" "If you are a Jane Austen fan with a pronounced predilection for "Pride and Prejudice, "you will devour Jo Baker's ingenious "Longbourn "as the ambrosia from the Austen gods it is . . . It's an idea that could have felt derivative or sycophantic in its execution, and yet the novel is rich, engrossing, and filled with fascinating observation . . . Dive in and you might even forget to watch "Downton Abbey."" --"O "magazine "An absorbing and moving story about the servants at Longbourn . . . Both original and charming, even gripping . . . If Charlotte Bronte had taken up the challenge of a sequel to "Pride and Prejudice, "she might very well have hit upon the sort of broader, more sympathetic point of view Jo Baker has derived from the servants' quarters." --Diane Johnson, "New York Times Book Review" ""Longbourn "is a bold novel, subversive in ways that prove surprising, and brilliant on every level. This is a masterful twist on a classic . . . Much more than a frothy, "Downton Abbey"-like twist on Austen. This novel is moving, filled with suspense, and impressive for the sympathy with which it explores the drudgery of the servants' lives, as well as their heartaches. That said, there's plenty of Austen-worthy wit too." --"USA Today" "Delightful . . . The achievement of Baker's reworking is that Sarah is no mere foil for Elizabeth Bennet; her notions of individual agency and the pursuit of happiness push more forcefully against the class and social strictures of her time than any character in Austen's novel. The result is a heroine whom it's impossible not to root for." --"The New Yorker"" ""A witty, richly detailed re-imagining of "Pride and Prejudice . . . "Fans of Austen and "Downton Abbey "will take particular pleasure in "Longbourn, "but any reader with a taste for well-researcA Best Book of the Year Selection: "New York Times "100 Notable, "Seattle Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Kirkus Reviews" "Masterful . . . From the same stream that fed Austen's literary imagination, Baker has drawn forth something entirely new and fresh." --"Miami Herald" "Happily, "Longbourn "is no mere riff but a fully imagined rejoinder to "Price and Prejudice " . . . Austen would have appreciated Baker's bracing rewrite from the underdog's point of view." --"Newsday" "If you are a Jane Austen fan with a pronounced predilection for "Pride and Prejudice, "you will devour Jo Baker's ingenious "Longbourn "as the ambrosia from the Austen gods it is . . . It's an idea that could have felt derivative or sycophantic in its execution, and yet the novel is rich, engrossing, and filled with fascinating observation . . . Dive in and you might even forget to watch "Downton Abbey."" --"O "magazine "Intelligent and elegantly written . . . "Longbourn "reveals these messy backdrops [of "Pride and Prejudice"]""while still, in fitting tribute, inventing a touching love story of its own." --"Wall Street Journal""An absorbing and moving story about the servants at Longbourn . . . Both original and charming, even gripping . . . If Charlotte BrontE had taken up the challenge of a sequel to "Pride and Prejudice, "she might very well have hit upon the sort of broader, more sympathetic point of view Jo Baker has derived from the servants' quarters." --Diane Johnson, "New York Times Book Review" ""Longbourn "is a bold novel, subversive in ways that prove surprising, and brilliant on every level. This is a masterful twist on a classic . . . Much more than a frothy, "Downton Abbey"-like twist on Austen. This novel is moving, filled with suspense, and impressive for the sympathy with which it explores the drudgery of the servants' lives, as well as their heartaches. That said, there's plenty of Austen-worthy wit too." --"USA Today" "Delightful . . . The achievement of Baker's reworking is that Sarah is no mere foil for Elizabeth Bennet; her notions of individual agency and the pursuit of happiness push more forcefully against the class and social strictures of her time than any character in Austen's novel. The result is a heroine whom it's impossible not to root for." --"The New Yorker"" ""A witty, richly detailed re-imagining of "Pride and Prejudice . . . "Fans of Austen and "Downton Abbey "will take particular pleasure in "Longbourn, "but any reader with a taste for well-researched historical fiction will delight in Baker's involving, informative tale." --"People" "A triumph: a splendid tribute to Austen's original but, more importantly, a joy in its own right . . . Like Austen, Baker has written an intoxicating love story but, also like Austen, the pleasure of her novel lies in its wit and fierce intelligence . . . Baker not only creates a richly imagined story of her own but recasts Austen's novel in a startlingly fresh light . . . Inspired." --"The Guardian" "Diehards who love Jane Austen and "Downton Abbey "will fan their corseted bosoms while tearing through this novel." --"Entertainment Weekly" "The servants have complicated, messy, interesting lives that are every bit as compelling as the Bennet girls' quest for husbands." --NPR "Weekend Edition" "Irresistible . . . Sequels and prequels rarely add to the original, but Baker's simple yet inspired reimagining does. It has best-seller stamped all over it." --"Kirkus Reviews "(starred) ""Longbourn "is a really special book, and not only because its author writes like an angel. Its real achievement is to circumnavigate the world of Austen knock-offs and return, like Francis Drake, with a hold full of treasure"." . . There are some wildly sad and romantic moments; I was sobbing by the end . . . A beautiful book." --"Daily Mail "(UK)" """Longbourn "is told with glee and great wit, and will delight diehard Austen fans." --"The Daily Beast" "Inspired . . . This is a genuinely fresh perspective on the tale of the Bennet household . . . A lot of fun." --"Sunday Times "(UK) "An especially appealing, and timely, reworking of the classic . . . Much as Jean Rhys's reimagining of "Jane Eyre "through a postcolonial perspective became popular in the late nineteen-sixties, when "Wide Sargasso Sea "was published, so is Baker's class-conscious reconsideration of "Pride and Prejudice "representative of our own time.""" --"NewYorker.com" "Beautifully realized . . . [The characters below stairs] are every bit as absorbing as Lizzy, Wickham, and Darcy." --"The National" "A splendid page-turner . . . The much-loved "Pride and Prejudice "is shaken up and given the grit that Jane Austen could never include--with great success . . . Baker's imaginative leaps are stunningly well done, both historically and emotionally." --"Evening Standard "(UK) "A must-read for fans of Austen, this literary tribute also stands on its own as a captivating love story . . . Baker takes many surprising risks in developing the relationships between the servants and the Bennets, but the end result steers clear of gimmick and flourishes as a respectful and moving retelling." --"Publishers Weekly "(starred) "Captivating . . . A brilliantly imagined and lovingly told story about the wide world beyond the margins and outside the parlors of "Pride and Prejudice."" --Maggie Shipstead, author of "Seating Arrangements" "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 "(UK) "Achingly romantic . . . This exquisitely reimagined "Pride and Prejudice "will appeal to Austen devotees and to anyone who finds the goings-on below the stairs to be at least as compelling as the ones above. Highly recommended." --"Library Journal "(starred) "If "Longbourn "is received as a delicious concoction of "Pride and Prejudice" meets "Downton Abbey, "then, for commercial reasons, no one will feel sorry for Jo Baker, but for artistic ones, she will have been treated unfairly. Baker is a real and very fine writer, and "Longbourn" stands on its own as an engrossing, intelligent historical novel. At the same time, its resonances with "Pride and Prejudice" go much farther than its brilliantly plausible presentation of downstairs life: critics have long striven to prove that the great issues of Austen's time--slavery, war, enclosures--impinged on her work; Baker shows us the fermentation below the froth." --James Collins, author of "Beginner's Greek" "This clever glimpse of Austen's universe through a window clouded by washday steam is so compelling it leaves you wanting to read the next chapter in the lives below stairs rather than peer at the reflections of any grand party in the mirrors of Netherfield." --"Daily Express "(UK)A Best Book of the Year Selection: New York Times 100 Notable, Seattle Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Kirkus Reviews

4.5 (7297)
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Book details

  • PDF | 352 pages
  • Jo Baker(Author)
  • Knopf Publishing Group (8 Oct. 2013)
  • English
  • 7
  • Romance
Read online or download a free book: Longbourn

Review Text

  • By Mary Ann on 30 May 2017

    A brilliant work!It's been wonderful to read a work set in the Regency which is actually about the common people - ie, the well over 98 per cent of the population who were not members of the gentry or connected to the 300 odd titled aristocrats.The daily grind of servants in a genteel but not greatly wealthy establishment, the menial work, the sordid nature of much of it, including emptying bedpans, washing underwear and menstrual napkins,is unsparingly depicted.So, if briefly, is the misery caused by the destruction of villages through the enforced enclosures. This, like so many ugly details of early nineteenth century life, is determindly ignored by most writers on the Regency era.Sarah is a strong and lovable heroine. Even Elizabeth Bennett doesn't outshine her. The male lead is also sympathetic and believable - and so is his rival.As someone who has never much liked Darcy, I was delighted by the treatment of him in this, the servants' perspective.However, the final impression of this story is not of squalor and sadness, but of hope and regeneration.Highly recommended, particularly for those who have a romanticised view of how life was for most people in this era, saying such things as: 'If only I'd lived then' and 'I was born in the wrong age'.

  • By J. Ang on 11 February 2015

    An alternative take on the goings-on in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice", a 'simultan-uel' if you will, imaginatively seen through the eyes of the help at the Bennet household. Sarah, the teenage housemaid, takes centrestage, and the action happens mostly in the kitchen and servants' quarters while Elizabeth, Jane and their sisters deal with their dramas upstairs in the drawing rooms and parlour. Fans of the original novel will take pleasure in matching the events with this version, from the giddy excitement at the Bingleys' arrival at Netherfield, to Collins's clumsy courtship of Elizabeth, to Lydia's elopement with Wickham, the latter given a meatier and more sinister role that sees him meddling with the lives of the central characters in Baker's narrative.It is to Baker's credit that she keeps more or less to the tone and language of a Regency novel, and she awakens the reader's consciousness that someone needs to be laundering the Bennet girls' many dresses, curling their hair, sewing rosettes to their dancing shoes, and stoking the fires before dawn, getting chilblains and blisters doing all those chores to make the narrative of "Pride and Prejudice" possible. I found it especially sobering that Liz's memorable trek across the country to be with a sick Jane in P&P that was held up as evidence of her gutsy and selfless spirit came at a cost to her servants, who had to attend to her mud-caked boots and soiled skirts.With such exhausting detail to remain faithful to Austen's novel, there is a good chance that the novel could fall flat on its face. However, Baker's work succeeds because she is able flesh out her characters well and incorporate them seamlessly into the narrative. Sarah is fully-realised as a budding girl who has aspirations which are contained by the stark realisation of her station in life. The mysterious James Smith, too, who comes to be the Bennet's footman, has a story entwined with the Bennet household and that gives a surprisingly fresh angle to one of the characters originally encountered in P&P. The second half of the novel also turns its focus on the war, which casts a harsh light on the significance of the militia who are stationed in the village, and contrasts itself from the light and bubbly narrative of P&P.

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