Longbourn by Jo Baker
3 words: domestic, sympathetic, frank
So this one made me a little nervous. A retelling of Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ viewpoint?
My fear: snark. Or worse.
Katie of Words for Worms (her review is, of course, a fabulous thing to read) assured me it would be OK.
And it was.
In P&P, the servants are sort of there, taking care of things… but really? They’re pretty much making the Bennets’ lives comfortable, and their thoughts and feelings are completely absent.
Here, we get The Rest of the Story. (Anyone else kinda miss Paul Harvey?)
And Jo Baker does it up right.
Sarah, a young housemaid, is smart and hardworking and likeable. And her hands usually hurt, cuz that was some horribly hard (and often disgusting) work they had to do. (I’ve never looked at my washing machine with such fondness as I do now.)
Then a new footman arrives at the house, and that upsets the applecart downstairs almost as much as Mr. Bingley’s arrival disrupts life upstairs.
The thing that surprised me — and eventually delighted me — is that Elizabeth and Darcy’s story is hardly even mentioned in this version of events.
Here, we get to hear Sarah’s story. And James the footman’s story. And Mrs. Hill’s surprising back story.
And it was a little bit Downton Abbey-esque, all this downstairs business, as we follow these characters through their daily lives and care about what happens to them.
And it’s not necessarily the happily-ever-after story of P&P, but the author leaves her characters in reasonably good situations, so no worries there.
And even the poor, overlooked, middle Bennet daughter, Mary, gets a happy ending. These lines made me so happy, I nearly cried.
“And to be flourishing, and happy, was to be a good way towards being beautiful. And being flourishing, and happy, and beautiful, was a good way towards being beloved…” (326).
So, good people… What’s your take on pastiches? Yay, nay, or maybe?