School is done for a few weeks, and I've had a little bit of time to begin reading for fun. And I've managed to buy another six books just to make myself crazy with which one to read next. The life of a book lover is never dull.
Longbourn is a novel that had to wait until I was ready to read it. It has stared at me from the bookshelves and tables at work, first in hardcover, and now in paperback. I am so glad I waited to read it, and it's a perfect ending to my reading year.
Longhorn follows the lives of the Bennet household servants: Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Sarah, and Polly. Life is pretty dull washing out the underthings of the Bennet sisters, cooking food, and running up and down stairs at the slightest ring of a bell. Then mysterious James shows up; he is taken into the Bennet household as their latest servant. Sarah at first loathes him; but the loathing quickly turns into interest. Just who is James, and why is he so secretive?
Meanwhile, the storyline of Pride and Prejudice winds its way through the novel, and the author cleverly starts each chapter with a line from P&P, which helps keep you on track with what's going on above stairs. Tiny details of life as a servant, the day to day life of British gentry, and the complicated relationships between servants and those they serve all bring a richness to this tale that completely captured my imagination. I don't think I will ever be able to think of Pride & Prejudice again without this book in my mind. It certainly did make me look at the Bennet sisters in a new light--and not a particularly flattering one at that. It dented my admiration of Elizabeth just a bit. Read it and decide for yourself!
Jo Baker did an amazing job creating a whole new addition to the world of Jane Austen. Not only did she remain faithful to Pride and Prejudice, but she took the reader away from Longbourn and into the private hopes, dreams, and yes, nightmares of the servants that remain always below stairs, and always behind the scenes. In this novel, the Bennet sisters and their love lives are merely along the edges--what happens to the Bennet servants is just as dramatic and full of highs and lows as the best soap opera around.
Rating: 8/10 for a wonderful story that weaves the world of Pride and Prejudice into a new tale sure to appeal to any fan of historic fiction. And Sarah is a wonderfully strong female character you won't be able to forget.
Available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio.