Customer Reviews for

Longbourn

Average Rating 3.5
( 54 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(16)

4 Star

(14)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(8)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

I wasn't so sure about this one at first. Considering all the Au

I wasn't so sure about this one at first. Considering all the Austen sequels, prequels, and re-tellings
that have appeared in the past couple of years alone, it's hard to stand out, to somehow make a
classic like Pride & Prejudice new. Literary writers have it har...
I wasn't so sure about this one at first. Considering all the Austen sequels, prequels, and re-tellings
that have appeared in the past couple of years alone, it's hard to stand out, to somehow make a
classic like Pride & Prejudice new. Literary writers have it harder than those turning the book into a
contemporary romance or a murder mystery, because the result has to be more than ephemeral
entertainment, it has to actually mean something. At the same time, this is Jane Austen--get too heavy
 and your audience will riot. Just ask writer/director Patricia Rozema, who tried to insert a bit of
historical relevance into her 1999 feature film version of Mansfield Park, treating viewers to hints of
Sir Betram's untoward relations with the female slaves on his Antigua plantation and Lady Bertram's
addiction to the opiate laudanum. Austen lovers were not amused.

Author Jo Baker manages to tread the fine line between literary merit and pure reading enjoyment.
She does this by essentially turning Pride & Prejudice on its head. The Bennets, Darcys, and Binglys
become minor characters in a drama centering on their normally invisible maids, housekeepers and
footmen. In reality, we aren't getting a retelling of a classic at all but a largely original work.

The plot centers around housemaid Sarah and James Smith, the natural (illegitimate) son of
housekeeper Mrs. Hill and Mr. Bennet, master of an estate that will be entailed away from his heirs
because none of the legitimate ones are male. It's this beautiful and tragic irony that provides the
central thread of the novel. Baker does a great job recreating the daily grind of life in service during the
regency period. Her descriptions of maids washing their mistresses' filthy menstrual rags and carrying
 sloshing chamber pots down staircases and through endless twisting corridors on the way to the
outdoor "necessary" house brings us right into that cold, aching, stinking world. Yet Baker works to
present us with rounded human beings rather than stick figure examples of the evils of social
inequality. There's plenty righteous indignation on the part of the servants for their employers' often
frivolous demands on their time and energy, but also genuine care and concern flow both upstairs
and down.

Where Baker does go wrong is in the beginning of volume three of the book, when the action at
Longbourn stops dead and we are treated to an exhausting flashback of James's experiences as a
 gunner in Portugal and Spain. Three chapters of violence, hunger and sexual exploitation that lead
us....where? We already know the footman has an unhappy past and is wary of being noticed by
soldiers of the militia staying in Meryton. And, through two taut interactions with the noxious and
conniving Wickham, we get enough detail to set up the coming plot turns. The flashback is gratuitous
 and undercuts the novel at the very point when it should be the tightest and most dramatic.

Luckily, Baker does get back to Longbourn and even takes us beyond the end of Pride & Prejudice,
so we get to follow James, Sarah, Polly, and Mrs. Hill a little way into their futures. Here's where the
book really succeeds. Baker's servant class characters are as fascinating to spend time with as
Austen's elegant creations and, by the end, we're just as sorry to say goodbye to them.

posted by clahain1 on December 19, 2013

Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review

Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

Not what I hoped for.

A fan of Downton Abbey and P&P, I was excited about this book and Entertainmently Weekly made it sound perfect. It was slow, boring and I didn't like or care about the main character. Only interesting bit was the Housekeeper back story.

posted by 8378904 on October 18, 2013

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  • Posted December 19, 2013

    I wasn't so sure about this one at first. Considering all the Au

    I wasn't so sure about this one at first. Considering all the Austen sequels, prequels, and re-tellings
    that have appeared in the past couple of years alone, it's hard to stand out, to somehow make a
    classic like Pride & Prejudice new. Literary writers have it harder than those turning the book into a
    contemporary romance or a murder mystery, because the result has to be more than ephemeral
    entertainment, it has to actually mean something. At the same time, this is Jane Austen--get too heavy
     and your audience will riot. Just ask writer/director Patricia Rozema, who tried to insert a bit of
    historical relevance into her 1999 feature film version of Mansfield Park, treating viewers to hints of
    Sir Betram's untoward relations with the female slaves on his Antigua plantation and Lady Bertram's
    addiction to the opiate laudanum. Austen lovers were not amused.

    Author Jo Baker manages to tread the fine line between literary merit and pure reading enjoyment.
    She does this by essentially turning Pride & Prejudice on its head. The Bennets, Darcys, and Binglys
    become minor characters in a drama centering on their normally invisible maids, housekeepers and
    footmen. In reality, we aren't getting a retelling of a classic at all but a largely original work.

    The plot centers around housemaid Sarah and James Smith, the natural (illegitimate) son of
    housekeeper Mrs. Hill and Mr. Bennet, master of an estate that will be entailed away from his heirs
    because none of the legitimate ones are male. It's this beautiful and tragic irony that provides the
    central thread of the novel. Baker does a great job recreating the daily grind of life in service during the
    regency period. Her descriptions of maids washing their mistresses' filthy menstrual rags and carrying
     sloshing chamber pots down staircases and through endless twisting corridors on the way to the
    outdoor "necessary" house brings us right into that cold, aching, stinking world. Yet Baker works to
    present us with rounded human beings rather than stick figure examples of the evils of social
    inequality. There's plenty righteous indignation on the part of the servants for their employers' often
    frivolous demands on their time and energy, but also genuine care and concern flow both upstairs
    and down.

    Where Baker does go wrong is in the beginning of volume three of the book, when the action at
    Longbourn stops dead and we are treated to an exhausting flashback of James's experiences as a
     gunner in Portugal and Spain. Three chapters of violence, hunger and sexual exploitation that lead
    us....where? We already know the footman has an unhappy past and is wary of being noticed by
    soldiers of the militia staying in Meryton. And, through two taut interactions with the noxious and
    conniving Wickham, we get enough detail to set up the coming plot turns. The flashback is gratuitous
     and undercuts the novel at the very point when it should be the tightest and most dramatic.

    Luckily, Baker does get back to Longbourn and even takes us beyond the end of Pride & Prejudice,
    so we get to follow James, Sarah, Polly, and Mrs. Hill a little way into their futures. Here's where the
    book really succeeds. Baker's servant class characters are as fascinating to spend time with as
    Austen's elegant creations and, by the end, we're just as sorry to say goodbye to them.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 15, 2013

    A must read for anyone

    This is not just another P&P variation. This book stands apart from all of the sequals, prequals and variations. It is not another story of the Bennets and Darcys but a story of the average person and the not so romantic real life of everyday Regency England. The story of Sarah, James and Mr. and Mrs. Hill changes how we think of the "gentle" class of Bennets. Mrs. Hill who is always portrayed as Mrs. Bennet's crutch becomes a person with a past and a present and secrets that have a lasting affect on the members of the Bennet family. Elizabeth, while not a Caroline Bingley looking down her nose at the world, is unaware that others are not there to do her bidding. Elizabeth,as an extension of Darcy's arrogance and entitlement, is unable to understand why Sarah is unhappy with being separated from those she loves. The history and the lives of those that serve provide another look into this period and another view of some of our favorites.
    The characters of Sarah, the Hills and James are real. I fell for James and his kindness and pain and Sarah as she matured and realized that there was more for her life if she took control.
    I loved this book and will read it again and again. Jo Baker's characters are alive and moving. Excellant, excellant book.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2013

    Not what I hoped for.

    A fan of Downton Abbey and P&P, I was excited about this book and Entertainmently Weekly made it sound perfect. It was slow, boring and I didn't like or care about the main character. Only interesting bit was the Housekeeper back story.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2013

    I loved this book!!!! Excellent!!

    I loved this book!! I now will read again "Pride and Prejudice" because of this novel. Wonderful characters and great information about servants in this time period. Wonderful love story. Such a great idea for a book - well written, familiar but also new, and totally grabs the reader. Loved this book!! Another great novel I loved on the Nook is "The Partisan" by William Jarvis. It is based on facts and has wonderful male and female characters and a horrible villian. Both novels deserve A+++++++++++

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2013

    Insightful and entertaining

    Jo Baker writes a story that goes right inline with "Pride and Preduice". If you are familiar with Austen's work you can picture what was happening throughout the entire Bennet household. Worth the time spent reading.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2013

    Very disappointing.

    Great premise for all of the Pride and Prejudice lovers out there. Unfortunately, the characters are dull, the story line weak, and the book is flat.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 29, 2013

    It's like Baker is trying to get back at Austen for some slight.

    It's like Baker is trying to get back at Austen for some slight. I have no idea why anyone gave this five stars.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2014

    Fully Realized Characters

    Often I don't care enough about the characters in a novel because they are not made real and the author loses me. Not so with this engrossing novel. The characters become real very quickly and stay real. I couldn't put the book down. I was transported back in time, and lived through their joys and miseries with them. Only praise for this wonderful imaginative and empathetic portrait of a past time that in its exploration of inequality is very much a depiction of the inequality that remains today.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2014

    Pride and Prejudice meets Upstairs, Downstairs. I am a big Jane

    Pride and Prejudice meets Upstairs, Downstairs. I am a big Jane Austen fan and typically re-read Pride and Prejudice once or twice a year. But I will probably never read it the same way again, now that I have read Longbourn. Jo Baker retells Austen's most loved story from the point of view of the Bennet family servants and with their lives at the center of the action. The result is a compelling novel and a serious commentary on social inequality in both Austen's time and our own.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2014

    If you love Jane Austen, stay away from this book. It is dreary,

    If you love Jane Austen, stay away from this book. It is dreary, boring and full of details about chill blains, chamber pots,  and menstrual blood. 

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2013

     

     

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

    Sorry to upset the apple cart, but once again, I am disappointed

    Sorry to upset the apple cart, but once again, I am disappointed in another 'faint copy at best' Austen rewrite.


    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2013

    Clever ik Clever idea; nicely executed.

    Wouldn't mind seeing a sequel.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2013

    Must read

    Loved it!

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Longbourn is set in the Pride and Prejudice world but it focuses

    Longbourn is set in the Pride and Prejudice world but it focuses on one particular servant at the Bennet's house, Sarah. The Bennet's house is actually called Longbourn.. because back in the day houses were also given names… Anyways, I was very excited to pick this up because I love Pride and Prejudice and for me any extra time in that world is worth my reading time. I have to say that Longbourn is very slow. It took me two weeks to read it because I didn't feel compelled or had the urge to actually read big chunks of it at a time. I liked Sarah.. she works hard and has had a tough life. I also liked the relationship between all the servants and how the head servant actually treats Sarah and Polly like her children. That was very sweet. However what I didn't enjoy about this book is the way the Bennet family as depicted. Mr.Bennet is this man who has taken advantage of someone and has no love towards his wife. Elizabeth is sometimes thought of as someone who couldn't care less about Sarah and her well being. I just.. I love those characters so much as reading about them having an ugly side didn't sit well with me. I have to say that this isn't really a love story. Yes there's a man and there's a mystery behind who he is, and there is a romance between him and Sarah too, however we spend so much time, almost towards the end of the book, going back in time to find out his mystery.. however I believe we spend too much time in the past to the point that I grew restless. Overall I do think the novel was interesting and a different take on the story Pride and Prjeudice, but the slow pacing as well as the barely there dialogue made me take much longer than I really should reading this book. This is a three star rating and I recommend it to fans of historical fiction, as long as you don't mind a slow pace.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2014

    Free ipod !!!

    Kiss your hands 3 times repost this three times on three different books look under your pillow : )

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2014

    Llaaqqq

    Iwss

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2014

    Disappointing

    Jane Austen would be disappointed to have this book connected to her name or work in anyway. The plot was weak and the characters unappealing and at times downright immoral.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2014

    Hi

    Hi

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    Highly recommended

    Loved this book. Very well written, felt like I was right there downstairs.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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