Downstairs at the Bennett's

NADINE HANCOCK
Last updated 05:00 23/02/2014

BOOK REVIEW: Longbourn
By Jo Baker (Random House, RRP $38)

Undoubtedly, one of the most beloved literary pieces is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Everyone knows the story of the Bennett family; their lives, their loves and their dramas.

However, the story of those working for the Bennett family remained a mystery - until now.

British author Jo Baker introduces us to the staff of Longbourn in her novel of the same name. She shows us that, as in Downton Abbey, the staff downstairs are just as intriguing, if not more interesting, than the privileged living upstairs.

There is Sarah, who is about to be introduced to passion she has never known in the form of two admiring men, Mr and Mrs Hill, who lead the staff, and whose relationship is utterly confusing, and the young maid, Polly, who has yet to become her own person, acting as Sarah's besotted younger sister. And coming into the lives of these charming characters is James, the new footman who Mr Bennett hires under mysterious circumstances.

Fans of the Upstairs Downstairs contrast will love this unique take on Austen's world. It is charming, and will no doubt make the reader speak with dignity and precision for days after opening this book. Be warned, though, it may change your precious opinion of a few noble characters who reside at Longbourn. This is a wonderful, delicious read.

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