I have just finished reading Longbourn by Jo Baker for the second time, I first read it when it was released in 2013. Back then it was the first book I’d read from cover to cover in a very long time and in reading it for the second time I found myself fully absorbed once again.
Longbourn, as the title suggests, is set in the fictional household of Longbourn, famously created in Pride and Prejudice. This time, however the focus isn’t on Elizabeth, her parents and four sisters but on the household staff that served them, primarily a serving girl called Sarah.
Sarah is a young serving girl about the same age as the elder two Bennett sisters who’s life is equally changed by the arrival of the Bingleys and Mr Wickham but also experiences new things in her own romantic life separate from the world of Pride and Prejudice. It is easy to forget that Pride and Prejudice was set during the Napoleonic wars which took a heavy toll on lower class Britain with an enormous loss of life of young men. Even though Pride and Prejudice has soldiers, notably Mr Wickham, the politics of dancing and love are more central to the storyline than the politics of war with the French. Longbourn therefore shows us a rare glimpse into the life below stairs of those who were truly affected by this war and this provides some truly gripping moments that is balanced so well with the backdrop of rural service life.
One thing that really impressed me about Jo Baker’s writing is that each chapter of Longbourn corresponds to the same chapter in Pride and Prejudice so you can read along with both stories and see where the two coincide which I now can’t wait to do properly.
All in all this is a story I really treasure and because it shows a different side to a story I already loved and I love this one equally. I totally engaged with the characters, and found myself reading far longer than I had time to just because the storyline was so gripping. This will be a favourite of mine for years to come and I can imagine myself reading and rereading it over and over again.