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Longbourn

Average Rating 3.5
( 58 )
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5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(14)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(9)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

12 out of 15 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

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 7 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 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.

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  • Posted January 25, 2014

    Recommended

    I enjoyed this book, although it was a little slow moving at times. I have to admit, I never read Pride and Prejudice, but if I had, I probably would've liked this a little better since this is a book that "wraps around" that one.

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  • Posted January 24, 2014

    Easy read, slightly dissapointing.

    I was really excited about the release of this book, as all the pre-reviews were so good. However, I found I was pretty dissapointed in the book itself.
    The beginning and the end weren't well written and had no meat. The middle was good and it was fun and interesting to read about the day to day life of making soap and washing clothes in that time period, however I believe the writter could have done a bit more research and put more of that sort of thing in the book.
    It is an easy read and I was able to read it over a short holiday break. If you are looking for something quick and not too in depth than it will be good for you, but $12.00 for Nook book was pretty expensive for it's quality.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2013

    This is three star if you like austin

    Since we know the first story must concentrate on the main character and the plot is a period regency romance with out the nice clothes. A much cleverer austin was a pbs movie where jane and a modern girl in love with Pride change places and she has to get use to brushing her teeth with a twig. Even with knowing Pride the details of housework in that time clutter the story in re shoes in wet wether I believe they wore wood shoes or wood clogs pattens over their regular shoes besides having oiled cloth for the rain. The sloppy plotting and then jams the complete love story into a page .

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Loved this book! 

    Loved this book! 

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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