My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I did love this book, particularly the first half of it. Longbourn begins beautifully, with a clear-eyed description of the life of servants in the Bennet household.
All of us know the Bennet sisters–Elizabeth, Jane, Mary, Kitty, and silly Lydia–and we know their parents, too. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books, and the idea of experiencing the “upstairs” story from the vantage point of the servants “downstairs,” well, I thought it was a marvelous idea.
But, the author, Jo Baker, had something else in mind. Quite rightly, she wanted to create her own story, her own characters, and she does so brilliantly. Austen’s story serves as a place marker of sorts. We know vaguely what is happening upstairs because the servants downstairs are forced to make adjustments to accommodate the vagaries of their employers. Elizabeth’s petticoats must be scrubbed when she strides off to the Bingley’s to see after her sister, Jane. But, the intrigues of the haves are not the point here. Jo Baker’s story is focused entirely on the have-nots.
Did I miss Mr. Darcy? I must admit that I did. He is referenced several times, but only makes one brief cameo appearance near the end of the book. However, I did appreciate the depiction of Mr. Wickham, the one Austen character who gets a real role in the drama unfolding downstairs at Longbourn.