Book Review: Longbourn

Longbourn

by Jo Baker.

Longbourn If Pride & Prejudice was turned into Upstairs/Downstairs or Downton Abbey, this would be the Downstairs portion. It’s the story of the servants that we just get mere glimpses of in Austen’s original, given their own histories and lives and secrets. In particular, it’s the story of Sarah, the primary housemaid at Longbourn who we hear the Bennets call after in P&P. She is increasingly dissatisfied with her life of drudgery, stubbornly hoping there must be something more for her. And then of course, the household hires on a new footman, a hardworking but mysterious young man who Sarah is sure is hiding something. His arrival sparks an upheaval in the previously calm and unchanging lives of the servants.

I can’t really say much more about that without spoilers, but I will say I thoroughly enjoyed this. All of the characters are well thought out, layered, and vivid. They really come to life on the page. And I would occasionally forget that this was in the world of P&P because it was that absorbing on its own. The Bennets (in particular Mr. Bennet and Elizabeth) do feature in some significant ways, but the focus is less on the romances unfolding abovestairs and more on the lives belowstairs. Darcy hardly makes an appearance, which normally would frustrate me because let’s be honest he’s a big part of why I love P&P and its spin-offs. But again, Sarah’s story was absorbing enough that I didn’t really notice, let alone mind. And between the Bennet’s new footman and one of Bingley’s footmen, there was plenty of literary eye candy to go around. The view of some of the main P&P characters from the point of view of the servants was interesting, too. Mr. Wickham took on a whole new level of ickiness. Lydia actually came across in a kinder light, which was surprising. And the author has invented a history that makes Mrs. Bennet much more sympathetic, and casts Mr. Bennet in different light entirely. And overall I just have a higher appreciation for not having to be a maid in the 1800’s. SO much work.

There are lots of different points and details I could talk about, but really, you should just go grab this and read it yourself. It’s good. 🙂

I give it 4/5 stars.

If you are also a fan of Jane Austen spin-offs, you should check out bundle #4 in my big book giveaway!

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Longbourn

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Book Review: The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by Jennifer Laam I’ve always been a little fascinated with the Romanov family, so this was a no brainer to pick up when I saw it at the library. As Goodreads says, it’s “a compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter — smuggled out of Russia before the revolution — continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences.” The book weaves together the stories of three women: Lena, a housemaid in the Romanov palace; Charlotte, a ballerina living in Nazi-occupied Paris; and Veronica, a modern-day professor of Russian history. […]

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Book Review: While Beauty Slept

While Beauty Slept

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell Time for another fairy tale retelling! You know I love them. In While Beauty Slept, Blackwell tackles the story of Sleeping Beauty through a historical rather than magical lens. It’s told through the point of view of Elise, a farm girl whose family is decimated by the plague and so she goes to the castle to look for a new start. Eventually she becomes handmaiden to the queen, and so witnesses Rose’s birth, the power struggles with the king’s aunt Millicent, their dramatic clash, and the way fear can erode personal relationships as well […]

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Book vs. Movie: Water for Elephants

Book vs. Movie: Water for Elephants

Time for another Book vs. Movie! This time it’s Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. It’s the story of Jacob, who runs away to the circus during the Depression when his life falls apart around him. There, he works as the show’s vet, and falls ever more in love with Marlena, the star of the circus and beautiful wife of the temperamental ringmaster August. When the circus acquires an elephant for a new act, it changes everything. I read the book back in October on the way home from New York – between the airport layover and actual flights, I […]

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Book Review: Heart’s Blood

Heart's Blood

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier I’ve long been a fan of Juliet Marillier. Reading her Sevenwaters series years ago may have sparked in me an undying love for historical-fantasy-romance set in the British Isles. So when I randomly came across Heart’s Blood on the shelf at the library, I snatched it up. I didn’t realize (but should have expected) that like her other works I’ve enjoyed, this too was a very loose re-imagining of a fairy tale in a Celtic setting. Sevenwaters was a wonderful version of The Six Swans, this was a completely unexpected take on Beauty & the […]

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Book vs. Movie: Cloud Atlas

Book vs. Movie: Cloud Atlas

I read half the book, then watched the movie, then read the other half of the book, so everything was still fresh for comparison. And this is one of the few times where I can’t make a clear decision between the book and the movie as to which I liked better. I liked them both, for different reasons. Book Movie Pros Really excellent writing and exploration of different narrative methods (1st person, 3rd person, letters, journals, interview, etc.). Distinct and interesting narrative voices, particularly for the sections in 1st person – gave real life to the characters. Much more detail […]

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Book Review: Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein I hesitated over whether to write a review of this book for the simple fact that I wasn’t sure how to convey why I liked it without some major spoilers. I’m still not sure how to do that, but I’ll give it a whirl. Some basic facts: It takes place during World War II. It centers around the friendship between two English girls, Maddie and Queenie. One of them is a pilot, one of them is a spy. One of them is captured, one of them isn’t (not giving anything away, this is in […]

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