This new book is set in the same world as Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, but the author re-imagines the story from the servants’ perspective, particularly the lives of a young maid and footman who fall in love. Fans of Pride and Prejudice will appreciate all the allusions, but even if you’ve never read it, Longbourn works on its own as thoughtful, well-written historical fiction.
“Longbourn is a really special book, and not only because its author writes like an angel. . . . There are some wildly sad and romantic moments; I was sobbing by the end. . . . Beautiful.” —Wendy Holden, Daily Mail (London)
“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.” —The Guardian (London)
“A New York Times Book Review Notable Book, a Seattle Times Best Title, a Christian Science Monitor Best Fiction Book, a Miami Herald Favorite Book, and a Kirkus Best Book of the Year”
*Starred Review* Elizabeth and Darcy take a backseat in this engrossing Austen homage, which focuses on the lives of the servants of Longbourn rather than the Bennet family. Baker’s (The Undertow, 2012) novel finds Sarah, the Bennets’ young, pretty housemaid, yearning for something more than washing soiled dresses and undergarments. The arrival of a handsome new footman, James Smith, creates quite a stir as he’s hired after a heated discussion between Mrs. Hill, the cook and head of the servants, and Mr. Bennet. Sarah isn’t sure what to make of the enigmatic new member of the household staff, but she’s soon distracted by the Bingleys’ charismatic footman, Ptolemy, who takes an interest in Sarah and regales her with his dreams of opening up a tobacco shop. Baker vividly evokes the lives of the lower classes in nineteenth-century England, from trips in the rain to distant shops to the struggles of an infantryman in the Napoleonic Wars. She takes a few liberties with Austen’s characters—Wickham’s behavior takes on a more sinister aspect here—but mostly Austen’s novel serves as a backdrop for the compelling stories of the characters who keep the Bennet household running. –Kristine Huntley for Booklist