'If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats,' Sarah thought, 'she would be more careful not to tramp through muddy fields.'
It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah's hands are chapped and raw. Domestic life below stairs, ruled with a tender heart and an iron will by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a new footman, bearing secrets and the scent of the sea.
If you're anything like me (not short and obsessed with frozen yoghurt but a major Jane Austen fan) then you would probably jump to read a novel that has anything to do with Pride and Prejudice, right? This leads me to Longbourn. The events of the book take place alongside the events of Pride and Prejudice which are detailed and experienced s through the characters of the 'downstairs' who also have their own saucy dramas going on! Think Downton Abbey, solely about the help and hearing about Edith and Mary's love lives through them.
I thought initially that I would either love or hate this concept for a book. I thought I might constantly compare it to P and P and it would come up short, because let's face it, most things would. However, I found that when I looked at it as a novel in its own right I thoroughly enjoyed it. Longbourn really captured the working class perfectly and gave me a whole new insight into the era through a completely contrasting different social class.
The most obvious difference was the fact that this is a modern book so Baker goes further with the love scenes and language and on the whole it's more...gritty, which is very reflective and fitting of the class it is representing. Sarah, the lead, is very different to Lizzie but makes for a fascinating narrator in herself. There are some very interesting and varied characters and the appearance of a mystery footman, James and the subsequent love story definitely made for an interesting read. Also since watching Pride and Prejudice I have given more notice to the background characters and it has actually given me more enjoyment of the original.
As well as this Jo Baker's work is very well researched and she has effortlessly integrated the characters without it appearing like she is changing or reimagining the Austen world we love so much! Yet despite this the novel never feels too familiar and the main storylines and characters feel very original and fresh.
Okay, so what's not to like? Well, as a avid fan of Pride and Prejudice, it was hard just getting snippets of the storyline we know and love here and there and it made me want to pick up the other novel instead! As interesting as these original storylines were I didn't find them AS classic as well, the classics and....I missed Darcy, there I said it! There was also a slight addition to Mr Bennett's romantic history that didn't sit too well with me, however I will leave that up to you all to forge your own opinion.
All in all though these are all picky points and as I have already mentioned, if you step back and view this book as a completely separate entity, then it is a very fun, interesting read. Moreover, a film adaption has been commissioned and it's always nice to read the book beforehand, no? I'm already trying to think of which beautiful actors they might cast...am I being shallow? Perhaps... So, if you love a good period drama, some romance and a little mystery then I would definitely, definitely recommend this book!
I would give this three enthusiastic stars!
This post was written by guest blogger Sophia, check out her blog Small & Happy or follow her on Twitter @sophiacristina.