I just got a note from the PR folks at Knopf putting the word out about a new novel that retells Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ point of view. A bit skeptical, I read on about English author Jo Baker’s Longbourn:
“LONGBOURN will reveal what Jane Austen did not: the constant chaos swirling downstairs, the preparation for lavish balls, the housekeeper’s real thoughts about the family patriarch. But it will also reveal the tragic consequences of the Napoleonic Wars and focus on a romance between a newly arrived footman and a housemaid, the novel’s main characters.”
My first thought was of the movie Gosford Park, about the lives of servants behind the scenes. But as a fan, it seems Baker’s goal was more deeply seated. While reading and re-reading, she realized she would have been not the Bennets but one of the toilers in the background:
“‘I began to become aware that if I’d been living at the time, I wouldn’t have got to go to the ball; I would have been stuck at home with the sewing. Just a few generations back, my family were in service. Aware of that English class thing, Pride and Prejudice begins to read a little differently.’”
Film rights have already been snapped up, and I suspect that’s where its broadest reach lies.