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Longbourn

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

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. 

"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 ofthem." (Independent)"Splendid...Baker’s imaginative leaps are stunningly well done both historically (the scenes set at the siege of Corunna are terrific) andemotionally...What a great film it will make (the rights sold early); the well-loved novelshaken 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 betweenpast and present" (New Yorker)"A fresh and engrossing story from below the stairs of Pride and Prejudice" (Woman and Home) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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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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