Longbourn by Jo Baker

Having been left bereft from reading My Brilliant Friend I was reluctant to pick up another book, but the deadline for my next book club meet was looming and I felt pressured to start reading the group choice Longbourn by Jo Baker.

I started on a rainy day as a procrastination for not getting on with the list of things I had to do.  I thought I would just have a post-yoga coffee and break into the book for half an hour. I got nothing done that day, the rain lashed down, I rummaged around in the freezer for some lunch and dinner and I read until just after midnight, till I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and I only had 60 pages left to read!

It’s gorgeous. The story of below stairs at Longbourn, the residence of the Bennet family in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. A brave move to shadow the awesome Ms Austen and use her characters to work another story into their pretty benile existence. The small workforce in this modest middle-class household  – this ain’t no Downtown – are made up of  Mr and Mrs Hill, housekeeper and stableman, and two maids that were rescued from the workhouse, Sarah and Polly.

A small tight-knit family of working class minions, treated ‘well’ by the Bennets but their work hard and arduous and at times quite unpleasant – the story starts with Sarah washing out the Bennet girls’ monthly napkins.’  Their biggest treat? a lump of sugar with their milk.

As with the lives of most women, no matter what age they are, things are turned upside down with the arrival or two men, Ptolemy and James, and this delicious tale of life below stairs turns into a delicious love story.

If you are a fan of Jane Austen, read this book. It does her no disservice whatsoever, it serves to bring to life her wonderful characters again, albeit they are the supporting characters in this narrative of the working classes.

Longbourn is a joy. Pick a rainy day, put the kettle on, open a packet of hobnobs, snuggle down on the sofa and read it all in one go. I didn’t want it to finish and I eeked out the last 60 pages over the course of two days.

 

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