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Sunday, September 01, 2013

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Luminous writing and great attention to detail make this book a delight to read.  Although the story concerns servants who have to scrub, wash and clean, Jo Baker manages to convey their world in writing that contains great beauty.  She also makes the reader realise the back-breaking work that Regency servants had to do.
The main character, Sarah, is a rather fey and dreamy girl who would probably be an artist or a writer if she had a proper chance.  Unfortunately, her world consists of washing clothes and dishes, scraping the mud off boots and similar tasks.  Young and innocent, she becomes intrigued by Ptolemy Bingley, the Bingleys' mulatto servant, but she also has a sneaky liking for James, the Longbourn footman, who has a dark secret.

Writing a novel about the servants at Longbourn was a brilliant idea, and Baker shows how the lives of the Bennet family affects them.  The reader will see another side to Pride & Prejudice.  For example, Elizabeth's decision to walk through the fields to see her sick sister was praised in the novel, but the maid had to scrape the mud off her shoes.  Jane Austen wouldn't have thought of that, because that was just the way that things were.

I don't usually like reading novels about servants, and I know that that appears snobbish.  However, I loved this story, and I can't wait to see the film!

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