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.
©2013 Jo Baker (P)2013 Random House Audio
"A triumph: a splendid tribute to Austen’s original but, more importantly, a joy in its own right, a novel that contrives both to provoke the intellect and, ultimately, to stop the heart.... Like Austen, Baker has written an intoxicating love story but, also like Austen, the pleasure of her novel lies in its wit and fierce intelligence.... Baker not only creates a richly imagined story of her own but recasts Austen’s novel in a startlingly fresh light.... Inspired." (The Guardian)
As a fan of Jane Austen I found this book offensive. While I believe the author's desire is partly to show the 'other side' of the story or the point of view of the servant. I read JA precisely because I do not like to be assaulted with the ugly, seedy and immoral stories of characters, the likes of whom I would never choose to associate with I my daily life let alone for reading entertainment.
An author's desire to examine the disgusting under-belly of humanity to seek out motive and reason is not my idea of relaxing and entertaining reading. This was a sadly disappointing 'read'.
The Book Snob for Paris Life Magazine.
Not earth shattering but enjoyable and well done. If you like P&P and if you like Downton Abby, you'll probably like this. It is like the servants are doing their own dance, which causes them to occasionally run into the P&P story on the dance floor, but otherwise they have their own steps, their own cares and concerns.
One of the best
I can't give away spoilers, but Baker brillantly weaves the plot of Pride and Prejudice with the intense character development of the servants, and it is a joy to see all of the layers unfold. I never expected Mr. and Mrs. Hill to be such nuanced, complicated characters.
Look upward and see the wonders I've seen
This may become one of my favorite books. I loved hearing about the other side of Pride & Prejudice.
I loved seeing the life at Longbourn from downstairs. I didn't think it would be so enjoyable and it was almost like it had been written by Jane Austen herself, with a few minor tweaks. Those tweaks could be easily overlooked as the story and the characters were so compelling. I loved Sarah the protagonist. In many ways she reminded me of another Austen character Anne Elliot of Persuasion.
Definitely Sarah. The story is primarily Sarah's story and she does a wonderful job.
When Sarah and Mrs. Hill told each other their secrets.
I would happily recommend this to any lover of Jane Austen's books.
I have listened to it twice and intend to keep it for a good long time. It is written in the manner that feel as though you are looking out through the eyes of the main character. There are points that refer back to Pride and Prejudice, but only as references that enhance to the story.
Well written, believable situations and characters, can only leave you with wanting more of the same. Unfortunately, many of them have the consistency of wet toilet paper.
The scenes described, the feelings of the characters are what you would imagine if you were in that situation, very easy to insert yourself, watching it all unfold as you were invisible.
Nothing, very easy evperience
I look forward to more of the same from Ms Baker
NYC editor 25 years.
Author does a nice job of bringing Jane down to the kithchen; good story telling in the tradition of you know who.
I'm making an audacious claim here. I know that it's virtually literary heresy to compare Jane Austen's work unfavorably with a modern novel. However . . .
I came to Longbourn expecting a rehashing of Austen's plot from the perspective of those "downstairs." I was very quickly disabused of this belief. Baker has created her own world of characters living their own independent lives which, now and then, intersect with that of the Bennet family.
Baker must have extensively researched the lives of all types of people during this era, and her ability of portray characters of various lifestyles during this period is uncanny. I am a voracious reader of biographies, diaries and journals, historical fiction and non-fiction. But it is rare that a historical novel, and more an audiobook, gave me the feeling that I was dipping into the lives of real people. Her prose, ad Fielding's interpretation of it, draws the reader in without feeling that it is contrived or overly poetic.
Don't get me wrong. I respect Jane Austen's work. I recognize her ability to reproduce the society in which she lived using fiction. And as an adult (I first read her books as a "teeny-bopper" in the very early 1970's) the consequences that come to foolish young girls are something I can relate to. More, as a parent, understand the turmoil when families are stretched between concern for the welfare of their daughters and fear of losing their social standing.
But all in all, I prefer Baker's re-interpretation of Austen's novel. If it can be called that. Because, when it comes down to brass tacks, Longbourn is only slightly related to Pride and Prejudice. It's much, much better.
I think wanting more Pride and Prejudice basically leaves you doomed to be disappointed. I liked this story until near the end where it started to drag. Although the events below stairs really have very little to do with the events from the original plot line, it is easy to keep track of how the stories fit together. I liked all of the characters Baker invented and the personalities and back stories given to Austen's minor characters. Whickam was just as despicable as ever. But once the original storyline wrapped up, Baker's below stairs story withers and falls apart, leading to a rather rushed and disappointing ending. It was certainly interesting to view the well known events of the classic through the eyes of the staff. If you are looking for a lot of page time spent with the characters from the original story you are bound to be disappointed (Mr. Darcy features in only one scene and not very favorably). It is interesting, however, to view then how they appear to their servants.
The book is called a tribute to Jane Austen, but I have no idea, how such a needlessly long and boring work, totally lacking any kind of that humor and wit we all love in Miss Austen, can be considered a tribute. The author just couldn't think of any original story of her own, so she used the beloved novel as a basis for her mediocre handiwork, spoiling any parts of it she touched in the process.
A look at the Bennet household from Pride and Prejudice as told by the servants. Specifically, Lizzy's maid, Sarah, and the footman who is more than a footman. I loved the view of the "downstairs" English home, and the lives of the servants. I suppose I knew, intellectually, how hard they worked and to what extent their lives were out of their own hands, but this book helped me see how they must have felt. Wonderful love story, though not a standard love story. Beautifully drawn characters. I didn't want the book to end.
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