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Back in May at BookExpo America, I heard Jo Baker present LONGBOURN at a breakfast. She captivated me as she talked about the staff who worked at Longbourn, the house made famous in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Her characters are not the people who wore the elegant clothes and enjoyed the fabulous meals, but rather the ones who spent their days making the soap to use to clean the clothes and then wash them by hand.
As the cover line says, this is an “irresistibly imagined downstairs answer to PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.” The protagonist, Sarah, is an orphan who slaves away for the family, but dreams of being somewhere else. She falls for a footman who begins work at the house, a man who clearly has a troubled past. And her story weaves into that of the Bennet household, making the novel irresistible.
Sure, we think we know the “downstairs” folks from watching “Downton Abbey,” but what about those from even earlier in history, when even the soap was made from scratch? The period details kept me turning the pages as much as the sagas of those below the stairs and above.
I confess to not being a Jane Austen fan (I know, heresy), but this story of the staff of the Bennet household drives me to want to pick up PRIDE AND PREJUDICE again. This could be a perfect tandem reading book for a book group discussion. I love finding books that pair together well like that!
It’s rich, atmospheric, completely fun and engaging. I loved every moment of reading it. Whether you are a “Downton Abbey” fan or a Jane Austen enthusiast, this will be fun reading!