Thursday 26 December 2013


Finished December 22
Longbourn by Jo Baker

This novel retells the story of Pride and Prejudice from the servants viewpoint. In this case, the Longbourn servants include Sarah, a housemaid, who came to the family as an orphan from the poorhouse; Mr. and Mrs. Hill, the manservant and housekeeper, both of whom have been employed at the house since their youth; and Polly the younger housemaid. Polly's real name is Mary, but because one of the young Bennett daughters is Mary, she has to go by a different name, something she is much put out about. As the story begins, another man joins the household as a servant, taking on some of the more strenuous tasks from Mr. Hill who is aging. His name is James Smith, and his arrival causes Mrs. Hill some anxiety and Sarah some confused feelings. At nearly the same time, the Bingleys arrive bringing their servants, and the footman entrusted with many messages between the houses, Ptolemy, takes a shine to Sarah.
One certainly gets a different sense of the struggles in life from this viewpoint and it is interesting to see how the servants feel about the different members of the household. The Hills have been at the house since before Mr. Bennett married, and have seen the entire lives of all the Bennett daughters, with Mrs. Hill caring deeply for them. They receive handed-down clothing from the family, and are expected to work doing errands on whatever whim the family takes, despite the time of day or weather conditions.
This story also brings in the outside world more than the original novel, showing us a different take on living during the Napoleonic wars.
It was a very interesting and enjoyable read.

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