January 11th, 2021
| Published: 2013 by Vintage |
| Genre: Historical Fiction |
| Sub-Genre: Retelling |
| Length: 447 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| ⭐ ⭐ :star ⭐ |
The first book of 2021 has set this reading year off to a fantastic start. I don’t know what’s to come, but I already feel like I’ve found a book that will make my top 10 of the year list.
What Is It About?
Think Upstairs, Downstairs, but Pride and Prejudice. This is the classic story we all know, but told from the Longbourn staffs points of view. There’s Mrs Hill, head house keeper who keeps the place running and her frail husband. Polly, the young and less dedicated maid. Sarah, who’s worked at Longbourn most her life, and the newcomer James, who doesn’t start off on the right foot with Sarah.
What Did I Think?
I don’t know about you, but I put a lot of pressure on finding the perfect book to be the first book of the year I read. I normally reread a favourite but this year I decided to read a book that is based on a favourite, Pride and Prejudice.
In Bakers reimagination of the classic romance, while the Bennett sisters find husbands, the servants downstairs are going about their daily tasks whilst finding romance of their own. It’s not a sequel or continuation, but the servants story alongside the arrival of Mr Bingley and Mr Darcey.
It made me look at the characters of Pride and Prejudice in a much less flattering light. Like, you think Elizabeth long walks and disregard to her clothing is charming and quirky? Her servants sure don’t think so! Baker isn’t shy about revealing the truths about society in this period, and that includes going deeper into the ‘trading’ in which Bingley likely got his money. Slavery.
The reason I gave it four and not five stars was because I don’t think the plot is as well structured as Austen’s was. Baker kind of tries to immitate the love triangle we see in Pride and Prejudice with one of the servants and it just doesn’t work as well. Their emotions just don’t show through the page and I felt none of their passion, so it did fall a little flat.
But this gives such an interesting look into the working life of a Georgian servant. It’s incredible the amount of effort it took just to keep these houses running and I feel like I learnt a lot. Baker really did her research and it really makes you sympathise with these previously invisible figures.
I think this is a must read for anyone who likes Historical Fiction. Knowing the plot of Pride and Prejudice isn’t necessary as I think it’s easy to follow whether you know the plot or not.