Jo Baker, Longbourn, (2013), 332p
I am in a small book club with three lovely ladies I went to library school with. I say book club, because… well, we do read books together, but I feel like it is a loose definition of a book club. We do each take turns picking books and we do meet up to discuss said books. These meet ups typically are 15 minutes of talking about the book and an hour or more gossiping, catching up, drinking beer, and eating food. This is my ideal book club. It introduces me to books I might not normally pick and gives me an excuse to see these gals. This month’s pick was Longbourn.
I find historical fiction to be either hit or miss for me. I also typically find the retelling of classic novels to be completely unnecessary. I refused to pickup Pride & Prejudice & Zombies or any of those ridiculous retellings. Longbourn, on the other hand, intrigued me. Mostly because of my all consuming love for Downton Abbey.
Longbourn is essentially a parallel read to Pride & Prejudice told from the perspective of the Bennet’s servants. I don’t want to say its a retelling, because really it’s not. The house staff has their own story lines, their own history. Things get shuffled up in the servants quarters when a new footman, James, mysteriously arrives. Sarah, the housemaid, has her interests peaked; Mrs. Hill, the head of the house, is very protective; and Polly, the servant, has a new playmate. Sprinkled with Bingley, Darcy, and Wickham for good measure, Longbourn is a tale of love, secret affairs, and mysterious pasts.
I enjoyed this read. It took me a little while to get into it, but I am happy I stuck it out. I really liked that they didn’t simply retell P&P, but gave a voice and life to the characters tucked in the kitchen. I fell in love with James – he was so sweet and damaged. It was a pleasant read but could anything ever hold a candle to the original? Of course not.
Happy reading –