Published by Knopf on October 8, 2013
Genres: Classic Retelling
Source: Owned Audible Book, TBR
• Pride and Prejudice was only half the story •
If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.
Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own.
I love audio books. In the author’s notes on the audio version of Joe Hill’s NOS4A2, he talks about how the first stories we learn are read to us. I listen to audio books when I’m in the car, shopping, and playing Candy Crush Soda Saga or Trivia Crack.
In typical book blogger fashion, I already have a tbr shelf just for audio books. Reviewing them is a bit more difficult, because I don’t take notes and I don’t always know how to spell the characters names. So these reviews will be a little different from my book reviews.
There was some slow pacing, but overall I really enjoyed this book about the Bennett household servants. The book had me from the first, when the servants were complaining about how filthy Elizabeth Bennet’s dresses got from all that walking around in the dirt she’s prone to. 🙂 So grateful not to be a servant back then! The narration stretches over a long period of time, and it gave another view into certain characters (Wickham and just how wicked he really could be) and Mr. Bennet- creating a whole back story for him that while not necessarily cannon, was still within keeping of the times and expectations.
Mostly the story focuses on Sarah the maid, and her quest for something different than the day to day toil of being a servant in a small household. As a character, I found Sarah frustrating at times, she could be impulsive and unkind, but those are the very traits that make her more human and realistic. I was intrigued by the Bingley’s back story, and their servants, but the book only gives glimpses of them.
The first half of the book worked better for me than the last half, because what I think I really wanted out of this book was Pride and Prejudice… okay, mostly more Mr. Darcy, not wars and blackmail. It got a little… depressing. However, if you’re looking for a book that mixes a little of Pride and Prejudice with a focus on servants in that time period and the struggle they had to endure, then this book is for you.
Emma Fielding narrates and she was wonderful. I’m not sure if I would have found this book quite so readable had I not listened to the audiobook. I would definitely recommend Fielding’s narration over reading the book in print!