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Longbourn by Jo Baker

longbournIf you are among the many who’ve read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, you’ll probably be intrigued by Longbourn, a retelling from the perspective of the Bennet family’s servants.  In Austen’s novel, the servants play minor parts.  In this book, they have major roles in the plot, and we see the Bennet family members through their eyes.

Susan, now a housemaid, came to the Bennet home as a six-year-old orphan.  Polly, the younger housemaid, is only twelve or thirteen years old and cannot even remember her family.  Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper mentioned in Pride and Prejudice, is, in this novel, also the cook.  Her elderly husband, Mr. Hill, is no longer capable of much work.  When a stranger mysteriously appears, and Mr. Bennet employs him as a footman, the lives of some of the servants change dramatically.

The Bennet girls give little thought to their servants’ personal lives.  For example, one of the sisters does not even immediately recognize the footman’s name when Susan mentions him to her.

I was especially interested in the descriptions of the heavy burdens of running a household prior to the invention of modern conveniences.  No doubt, many of our ancestors experienced the same daily struggles!

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)


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