It has been many years since I read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. More than 50, in fact, since it was on the English curriculum in high school. I still feel sorry for the kids that just couldn't relate to Jane Austen’s style/content in the 1960’s. I remember finding it difficult as a young teen to latch onto the story, but once I did, I was hooked. Of course I did not enjoy picking it apart as we had to do with everything we read in school: analyze, compare, contrast, state themes and reasons – groan, to say nothing of answering exam questions, double and triple groan!
Last week when Longbourn came into my hands, I wondered if I should reread P and P first, but happily that step was unnecessary – Longbourn is a stand-alone novel. The main characters of P and P are there, but this story is about the characters “below stairs”, the housekeeper, the housemaids, the footman and the interactions between them and the family, among themselves and with other visiting servants.
The timeline of Longbourn follows the same timeline as P and P, but while the sisters are off dining, dancing and discussing their love lives, the servants who see to their every comfort are having very different experiences. They have each joined the Bennet household with personal histories that influence their feelings and actions during their time in service.
When I looked at some of the reviews for Longbourn, I noticed that other readers were very black and white in their recommendations. Many (often Jane Austen “experts”) hated the novel and found it to have few redeeming qualities, while others, like myself, perhaps more open to a different experience (and possibly Downton Abbey fans) praised it highly.
I thought Longbourn was terrific, so I recommend that you read it too. Let me know what you think.