Longbourn by Jo Baker
As a fan of Pride and Prejudice, this book was squarely in my wheelhouse. And it did not disappoint. I loved how Baker didn't make Austen's main characters the focal point of the story, while still providing some interesting insight into personalities and motivations of those characters. Even if, as in Longbourn, those insights aren't always positive. We all love Lizzy Bennett's tough, stubborn, independent spirit... but as with any person we love, there are always negative aspects of their person. Lizzy is all of these things, but she's also a little self-centered and short-sighted. While it's hard to hear not-so-nice things about a beloved character, Baker's ability to write real and true characters was impressive.
I also loved how Baker was able to surprise me a few times. It maintained the spirit of P&P, but also brought a page-turner quality that Austen isn't necessarily known for. It felt both contemporary and classic at the same time.
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.