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Longbourn

Longbourn is a historical fiction novel by Jo Baker that takes the below stairs perspective of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

As one of the housemaids at Longbourn, Sarah spends her days doing all the things the genteel Bennett’s do not want to even think about – scrubbing laundry, emptying chamber pots, assisting in serving dinner, cleaning, etc.

Yet, as upstairs there is furor over the influx of marriageable, wealthy men in town, Sarah finds herself also pulled into romance.

And as an enigmatic new footman arrives – apparently a “fine young man” but without references that can be named – the servants’ hall becomes more mysterious and intriguing than ever…

This tie-in to Pride & Prejudice has been lauded and mentioned so often that I was quite excited to read it!

Sadly, it did not work for me.

At all.

I hate to be negative – clearly there are many, many people out there that have enjoyed Longbourn – and you could be one of them!! So, remember to take my review with the grain of salt that this is my opinion only – and it’s always best to read the novel for yourself!

First off, there are a lot of details regarding the household chores – A LOT. I figure the author is trying to portray how difficult and grueling the life of servant in the Regency era was – but it doesn’t make reading paragraph upon paragraph about the cleansing of menstrual garments and other lovely tasks any more entertaining.

Plus, Sarah as a character just did not connect with me at all. There’s a sense of bitterness to her – but then suddenly she’ll be presented as a beacon of sweetness, uneven to be sure – and it irritated me because despite how hard being a servant can be – there can also be an honor to it. It depends on how you go about it – and therefore, I came to not like Sarah.

Not the best impression of your main character.

Overall, these aspects led Longbourn to feel exhausting – and never cozy.

Secondly, the perspective that Longbourn placed on some vital Pride & Prejudice characters – actually some secondary ones too – came across as quite unpleasant at times. Some people – without giving it away – have dirty little secrets that I didn’t appreciate her taking the liberty of creating, to put it plainly.

Every once in a while the romantic aspect of the novel would perk it up some – but not much. Primarily it had an atmosphere that was dark and dour – with an inconsistent lead and melancholy supporting characters. It lacked any of Austen’s humor or sparkle!

In the end, I was very disappointed in Longbourn – I had had high expectations, but even without them I don’t see how I could have enjoyed it much more.

Unfortunately, Longbourn just didn’t do it for me – very sad.

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