Friday, 10 July 2015


I can't believe I allowed this book to gather dust on my shelf for a year. I can't believe I deprived myself off the beauty of this story for any longer than I had to.

When it comes to re-imagining's of Pride and Prejudice, I'm not a fan. The stories that try to create a life after marriage for Darcy and Elizabeth, can be entertaining to read but in my opinion they tend to read like amateur fan fiction, and fail to feel like equal counterparts to the original.

Then came Jo Baker's stunning novel, Longbourn.

I had my doubts guys. I had many doubts, hence why I let this book sit and gather dust on my shelf for so long. After reading the first three of The Mortal Instruments, I wanted something a little quieter. Just a few pages into Longbourn, something clicked inside me. As much as I LOVE action packed YA fiction, it's the quietly moving and deeply challenging novels that really feel like home.

Longbourn reads like a classic but with a modern touch. The descriptions of people and places that are lacking in Austen's novels are made up for in Longbourn. Baker's description of the Bennet home, and its surroundings completely coincides with how every fan of Pride and Prejudice probably imagines it to be!

Longbourn is beautifully written in that stunningly simple way that I love so much. Baker has a wonderful way of breaking down a character's thought processes during times of turmoil but in such a delicate way that I couldn't help but sit still for a moment each time this happened, and just stare at the words. Stare and soak 'em all in.

Austens's image of Regency England is heavily romanticised. It's all pretty girls, wearing pretty dresses and attending balls where they meet handsome gentlemen with lots of money and plush carriages. Don't get me wrong, I love (most) of Austen's novels, and Pride and Prejudice is indeed my favourite. But when reading them I'm totally aware that her novels are basically old fashioned chick lit, so aren't really a reliable source of what life in Regency England was actually like. By telling this well-loved tale from the perspective of those who serve our favourite characters, Baker brings Austen fans back down to earth. To read descriptions of Elizabeth and Jane's 'sweat', 'stains' and 'their monthly blood' is a little shocking at first. It never even crossed my mind that these seemingly perfect girls could break a sweat and smell and all that pretty normal stuff. And there were no tampons or sanitary towels back then, so the grim task of washing 'their monthly blood', as well as cleaning out buckets of their urine/faeces fell into the hands of the servants. Lovely.


While Baker provides us with the reality of Regency England, and the harsh working conditions of servants, she also creates a gripping, surprising, and moving plot with a wonderful love story. Not only do we get to see the main character, Sarah, develop perfectly through the length of the novel, Baker also reveals shocking secrets about the other characters (including the Bennets) throughout the novel but in such a quiet, and often beautiful way that at times I just felt like crying at the brilliance of it all.

Some reviews say that Baker's novel doesn't include the original characters enough, and that it could've been a story about any cluster of servants from any family of that time. Yes, you don't see a whole lot of Lizzie, and even less of Darcy but Pride and Prejudice is such a well known and loved novel that I think it's great that we get to read about a different side to it. A side that the Bennet family could not have functioned without.

Baker began each chapter with a line from Pride and Prejudice, so we can basically match the two novels chapter for chapter, and she picks up on small details brushed aside by the main characters in P & P and fleshes them out, creates a story around them. Showing us the often ugly reality.

There were a couple of things I wasn't totally comfortable with though, like Baker's portrayal of Elizabeth after marriage. The Lizzie we know and love is vibrant, outspoken, and would never let anyone lord over her. So when Baker portrayed her as quiet and demure, half hiding behind the hulking figure of her husband, I wasn't pleased.

Wickham's character is also far more darker, and twisted in this version but I was fine with that because I very much dislike him, and actually his twisted traits created a backdrop to some challenging and disturbing discoveries in Baker's novel.

If you're someone who loves Austen's characters just as they are and can't bear to see them depicted in an even slightly different way, then Longbourn may not be the book for you. Through the unflinching eyes of a servant, even someone like Lizzie can come across as shallow and selfish! But honestly, I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever enjoyed Pride and Prejudice. For me, it filled in many holes Austen left open, and stands side by side to the original, it's that good.

There's much more I could gush about but no one likes a mile long book review! Just read it guys. Seriously.

(I'm feeling so many feels after writing this, I might just re-read the last chapter... again, and cry at the beautifulness of it all.)

How do you guys feel about re-tellings of popular classics? Have you read any that you think are as good as the original? If not, what's the WORST one you've ever read? And does Longbourn sound like your kinda book?



  1. Longbourn is one of my favorite re-tellings of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice because of the realism and compelling plot. Another one is Pride and Prejudice and Zombies because... zombies.

    1. Ah see the thought of zombies mixed with classic Austen always makes me wary! But I shall have to give it a go one day :)


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