Longbourn (Vintage)
by Jo Baker

Published: 2013-10-08
Hardcover : 352 pages
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23 clubs reading this now
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Pride and Prejudice was only half the story •
If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take ...

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Pride and Prejudice was only half the story •
If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own. 

Editorial Review

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Chapter II

‘Whatever bears affinity to cunning is despicable.’

They were lucky to get him. That was what Mr B. said, as he folded his newspaper and set it aside. What with the War in Spain, and the press of so many able fellows into the Navy; there was, simply put, a dearth of men. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. What did you think of Jo Baker’s stylistic choice to include multiple characters’ perspectives in a single chapter? Do you think it enhanced the book?

2. What were your thoughts on the beginning of Volume Three, which was dedicated entirely to James Smith?

3. How would you compare and contrast the love stories between Sarah and James, and Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy?

4. Longbourn provides an alternative angle to Pride and Prejudice. Can you think of a classic novel that you would like to see rewritten in another character’s voice?

5. What did you make of each chapter’s introductory quote? Were there any that you were particularly drawn to? Why?

6. Lizzie Bennet is a much-loved heroine. Has Longbourn changed your view of her at all? Do you think she acts selfishly in relation to Sarah?

7. For those who have read Pride and Prejudice recently, do you know the significance in Pride and Prejudice of the whipping that Sarah witnesses in Longbourn?

8. Longbourn is a book that stands alone as having its own story, characters and themes–how far has the author ensured her novel is not pastiche, that it is a novel with a separate identity?

Suggested by Members

we got questions from bookmovement to help with our discussion. they were good but again it would have been helpful to read Pride and Prejudice first in order to answer some of the questions!
by msahm (see profile) 10/18/16

Will James’s ancestry be further explored? Does James ever inherit anything? Did James and Sarah’s life improve?
Is there a future sequel and will the young 12-year-old housemaid, Polly, be its subject and/or the child of Sarah and James?
Did Mr. Bingley, the footman, ever set off on his own to start a business?
by thewanderingjew (see profile) 02/09/14

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

“An absorbing and moving story about the servants at Longbourn . . . Both original and charming, even gripping . . . If Charlotte Brontë had taken up the challenge of a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, she might very well have hit upon the sort of broader, more sympathetic point of view Jo Baker has derived from the servants’ quarters.” —Diane Johnson, New York Times Book Review

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Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Charlene H. (see profile) 11/03/19

We gave this book a C-.

by karen S. (see profile) 08/12/19

by Britney D. (see profile) 12/14/18

by Elizabeth D. (see profile) 08/27/18

  "Longbourne"by melissa S. (see profile) 10/18/16

We really enjoyed the book . It was well written and you really got to know the characters and what their lives would have been like back then!!

by Vanessa S. (see profile) 09/11/16

by Maria D. (see profile) 05/18/16

  "Longbourn"by Ruth K. (see profile) 06/23/15

Kept me wanting to know more. Was fascinating to read about the servants' side of the story, their daily lives and perspectives, struggles and what desires they had and how they dealt with them. How... (read more)

by Cheryl B. (see profile) 01/27/15

  "Not the Pride and Prejudice you're thinking of..."by Anna B. (see profile) 01/25/15

While I appreciated the insight that this book offers into the lives of the "downstairs" crew during the time Pride and Prejudice takes place, I did not like how the characters from the original story... (read more)

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