THE SUNDAY TIMES TOP TEN BESTSELLER
A RICHARD AND JUDY BOOKCLUB PICK
'Utterly engrossing' Guardian
It is wash-day for the housemaids at Longbourn House, and Sarah's hands are chapped and raw. Domestic life below stairs, ruled with a tender heart and an iron will by Mrs Hill the housekeeper, is about to be disturbed by the arrival of a new footman, bearing secrets and the scent of the sea.
What readers are saying:
'A novel to be savoured'
'Very enjoyable exploration of the background to Pride and Prejudice'
The servants of the Bennett estate manage their own set of dramas in this vivid re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice. While the marriage prospects of the Bennett girls preoccupy the family upstairs, downstairs the housekeeper Mrs. Hill has her hands full managing the staff that keeps Longbourn running smoothly: the young housemaids, Sarah and Polly; the butler, Mr. Hill; and the mysterious new footman, James Smith, who bears a secret connection to Longbourn. At the heart of the novel is a budding romance between James and orphan-turned-housemaid Sarah, whose dutiful service belies a "ferocious need for notice, an insistence that she fully be taken into account." When an expected turn of events separates the young lovers, Sarah must contend with James's complicated past and the never-ending demands of the Bennetts. Baker (The Mermaid's Child) offers deeper insight into Austen's minor characters, painting Mr. Collins in a more sympathetic light while making the fiendish Mr. Wickham even more sinister. The Militia, which only offered opportunities for flirtations in the original, here serves as a reminder of the horrors of the Napoleonic Wars. Baker takes many surprising risks in developing the relationships between the servants and the Bennetts, but the end result steers clear of gimmick and flourishes as a respectful and moving retelling. A must-read for fans of Austen, this literary tribute also stands on its own as a captivating love story. First printing of 150,000.
The "below stairs" staff who serve the Bennets and their daughters add a dimension to their story as told in "Pride and Prejudice". The Longbourn staff are very real,their daily lives interwoven with the Bennets and I would recommend all who enjoy P&P to read Longbourn in order to complete the story. I had to keep reading! PF.
It kept me awake thinking about the next page..insight into Mary’s character I would have never have thought of..so very ‘Austen esq’..loved it..would like a bit more romance as it’s really only at the end..but other than that, can’t recommend it enough.