In the novel Longbourn, Jo Baker takes the setting and plot of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and re-imagines the story by focusing in on the lives of the servantry. Downstairs at Longbourn, the housekeeper, Mrs. Hill, lives with her husband who acts as both butler and chauffeur. Longbourn also employs Sarah, ladies’ maid to Elizabeth and her sisters, and Polly, who helps with many different chores around the estate. The servants spend their days washing clothes, scrubbing floors, preparing meals, and attending to the Bennett family. Things are pretty mundane until a new, mysterious footman arrives. Sarah is quite curious about James and his past and is determined to find out more about him.
It is apparent that much research went into the creation of this story. Jo Baker does an amazing job of retelling Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of its servants. She closely follows Austen’s original plot, but gives readers an entirely different perspective. While I am often skeptical of classical retellings, I quickly became entranced with the characters in Longbourn and found myself plowing through the novel. Fans of Downton Abbey are sure to devour this one!