Baker, Jo

(Large Print - 2013)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The servants at Longbourn estate, only glancingly mentioned in Jane Austen's classic, take center stage in Jo Baker's lively, cunning new novel. Here are the Bennets as we have never known them: seen through the eyes of those scrubbing the floors, cooking the meals, emptying the chamber pots. Our heroine is Sarah, an orphaned housemaid beginning to chafe against the boundaries of her class. When the militia marches into town, a new footman arrives under mysterious circumstances, and Sarah finds herself the object of the attentions of an ambitious young former slave working at neighboring Netherfield Hall, the carefully choreographed world downstairs at Longbourn threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, up-ended. From the stern but soft-hearted housekeeper to the starry-eyed kitchen maid, these new characters come vividly to life in this already beloved world.
Publisher: [New York] : Random House Large Print, c2013
Edition: 1st large print ed
ISBN: 0804121141
Branch Call Number: LGE-TYPE FICTION BAKER 2013
Characteristics: 543 p. (large print) ;,24 cm


From Library Staff

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... Read More »

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Oct 08, 2014
  • AuntJane rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

I wanted to love this - but didn't. I thought it was depressing and forced (or something I can't put my finger on...) an example: the use of "chilblains" a dozen times throughout...OK, OK, we get it, her hands are raw from work, find something else to talk about...

Aug 17, 2014
  • DorisWaggoner rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

The idea of turning the story of "Pride and Prejudice" upside down is both a good one, and risky. Jo Baker isn't quite good enough to keep up with Austen. Still, she gives an interesting idea of both upstairs and downstairs that we can't possibly get from the original. As just one example, Mr Bennett is seen in the original as fairly intelligent, but we see him in the beginning as a total fool for believing James' recommendation and story. I didn't see the "secret" until shortly before it was revealed, though apparently some readers did.The reader sees through him immediately, and understands why the girls in the kitchen respond as they do. Again, there's no way Austen could have given us an idea of the lives of servants, as she herself didn't see them except as extensions of herself. It takes a modern sensibility to do that. My reason for giving it a 3 was that I didn't think it was particularly well written compared to Austen, and I kept putting it down before I could finish it. It wasn't a compelling read.

Jul 08, 2014
  • bibliomutti rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

I was taken aback by the "unmentionables" as this tale begins. Also, some of the comments here influenced me negatively. I almost returned Longbourn unread. Fortunately, I decided to give it another try. I soon realized that any praise given was well-deserved. Longbourn is neatly and satisfyingly interwoven with the story which inspired it, namely, Pride and Prejudice. The author keeps the tone set by Austen but includes incidents and insights that could only see the light of day in the modern era. It's a great read! I hope they film it - perhaps as a t.v. serial! I'm a little in love with James. I certainly like him more than Mr. Darcy.

This novel opened up Pride and Prejudice for me in a new way, particularly what the military encampments means beyond providing escorts for the younger Bennett girls. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was completely caught up in it

Jun 15, 2014
  • hania4987 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

If you are expecting anything resembling the Austen classic -- DON'T -- you will be sorely disappointed. This is a pretty bleak look at downstairs life on a small English country estate at the beginning of the 19c. The circumstances and characters have nothing to do with Austen's creation beyond dropping in names occasionally. If you enjoy Thomas Hardy's works, this more closely resembles one of his novels.

May 24, 2014
  • limig rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

I would barely give this a 1 out of 10 stars. By the last half of the book, I was skimming to get to the end - and I figured out the "secret" near the beginning of the book. Sorry I can't recommend.

May 21, 2014
  • jeansandpearls rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

simply delightful

May 20, 2014
  • samdog123 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

An interesting look at what might have potentially happened "below stairs" in the Pride and Prejudice book. Well done and well researched with an engaging storyline. Here the work is the main tie between the servants and the employers--the employers are really just "there," much the same way as the servants would be in the other side of the story.

May 09, 2014
  • writermala rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

We've read and reread the "Pride and Prejudice," enthralled by the characters; but there is more to this novel than the Bingleys the Darcys and the Bennetts.
"Longbourn" shows us that the characters downstairs at Longbourn - Mrs Hill and her brood - lead lives just as exciting. AMidst their scrubbing and cleaning and washing they have time for falling in love and when they do it is an exciting story.
Jo Baker tells a tale which is independent of the "Pride and Prejudice," yet connecting the two with some details from the original. When James, the footman, arrives we know there is a mystery surrounding him and indeed there is.
This is a very well-told tale and novices as well as experienced fans of "Pride and Prejudice" will love it.

Mar 27, 2014
  • ksoles rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged" that one could fill a bookcase with prequels, sequels and other reworkings of Jane Austen’s novels. None of them would match Austen's quality, of course, but Jo Baker's "Longbourn" might come closest. This engaging and imaginative new novel focuses on the downstairs life at Longbourn, the house where the Bennets of “Pride and Prejudice” live. Refreshingly, the author does not attempt to imitate Austen’s style and actually pays little attention to Austen’s major characters. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet receive some fleshing out though Baker focuses most closely on the "help": teenaged Sarah and Polly and a newly hired servant, James Smith.

In great detail, "Longbourn" depicts the mountain of work that the servants face daily: James serves meals, cares for the horses and drives the Bennet girls around town; Sarah begins her day at dawn pumping water and ends it late at night after emptying chamber pots, washing clothes, cleaning the floors, running errands, helping in the kitchen, cleaning boots, mending dresses, fixing hairdos, lacing stays and fastening many buttoned gowns.

Baker also deftly compares the interests of the servants to those of the Bennets. It comes as no surprise that the residents of downstairs have little time to contemplate the Bennet's family affairs though one fact weighs on everyone's minds: they lack a son to inherit the house. Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper, fears that when Mr. Collins inherits the house, he will bring with him his own staff, putting them all out of a job. Thus, downstairs sees his marriage to Charlotte Lucas, who knows and appreciates the Longbourn servants, as a blessing whereas upstairs Mrs. Bennet deems it a disaster. Similarly, Wickham’s marriage to Lydia, a serious evil to the Bennets, takes his lascivious eye off Polly, the little maid whose life would be ruined if she paid him as much attention as he paid her.

Jo Baker’s thoroughly researched description of the servants’ toil ultimately depicts a life now impossible to imagine. She also thoughtfully adds a back story of James‘ life as a soldier in the Peninsula War in response to critics who have complained that, though Austen set “Pride and Prejudice” during the Napoleonic wars, she paid them scant heed. Perhaps most importantly, “Longbourn” invites questions about why “Pride and Prejudice” still exerts such influence on writers and filmmakers. Possibly its characters, each with his/her own charms and difficulties, open the door to the imagination. At any rate, of the many literary rethinkings of Austen’s work, “Longbourn” ranks among the most rewarding.

View All Comments


Add a Summary

This is another historical novel set in the English countryside in the late 1700's. I liked it because it is told from the servant's point of view. Author Jo Baker gives a very candid account of their daily toil, and the idiocy of war. The protagonist, Sarah, falls in love with a manservant who inexplicably leaves one day. Their story propels the novel on. Fans of Downtown Abbey and Charlotte Bronte will like this one.

Apr 13, 2014
  • MARIA E WHELAN rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Longbourn is a fun visit back with the characters of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, although this time focusing on what happens in the domestic quarters. It was entertaining and sweet, but run on a little long and it would have been a little nicer to interact with Austen's old characters more. Overall, decent read.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Notice

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Find it at MCL


Powered by BiblioCommons.
app07 Version gurli Last updated 2014/12/09 10:52