Diehards who love Jane Austen and Downton Abbey will fan their corseted bosoms while tearing through this novel, Longbourn, which recasts Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ perspective. As the story of Lizzy and Darcy, Jane and Bingley unfolds in the Longbourn House dining room, 17-year-old housemaid Sarah brings just as much drama to the downstairs quarters, flirting scandalously with Bingley’s black footman, Ptolemy; snooping on Longbourn’s hunky manservant, James; and allowing sweet young petticoat-washer Polly to shirk her duties while the head housekeeper, Mrs. Hill, looks on disapprovingly. Each chapter begins with a reference to P&P before going behind the scenes. Fans will relish the background on the Napoleonic Wars, which are mentioned only in passing in Austen’s classic, and dishy new gossip about Wickham, who’s even more of a cad here. But Sarah’s forbidden dalliances with Ptolemy and James, as well as the mystery of James’ past, are the wildly thumping lady-heart of this book. The chapter on James’ military service is tedious, but there’s a finale so back-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead romantic, someone should render it in needlepoint. B+
THE HELP The servants get top narrative billing in this revisit of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
Genre: Fiction; Author: Jo Baker; Status: In Season; Publisher: Knopf
Posted October 4 2013 — 12:00 AM EDT
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