Author: Jo Baker
Genre: Historical Fiction Pages: 443
First published: 2013
Edition: Paperback, published by Transworld Books in 2014
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.
When I started this novel based on Pride and Prejudice I realised I had read it before, probably around the time it came out. Since I did not remember much about it I was happy to read it again. I worried it would not be very good since I had completely forgotten I had already read it!
I was pleasantly surprised. The story, centered around the Bennets’ servants, is very well told. I loved all the details about their chores and their daily lives compared to the Bennets. Our main character Sarah is a sweet hard-working girl, and it is easy to like her.
The ‘cast’ from Pride and Prejudice appear here and there and you recognise the events, but it never feels like it leans too heavily on the classic we all know and love. In fact I thought it was quite interesting to see those characters ‘behind-the-scenes;, as it were. All in all, it does manage to very much feels like its own book. It would have worked even if it had not used Jane Austen’s novel as its skeleton.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it is a thoughtfully written historical novel in which you learn a lot more about the time period in which the Austen novels are set and written, and not just the pretty things.
A bit of a gem in my opinion.
6 out of 7 stars