Jo Baker || Longbourn

Jo Baker made me look differently at life at the Bennets. I shudder to think that I should be a housemaid for a family consisting of five women. Think of all the clothes and dirty linen to be washed or cold and rain to be suffered because shoe-roses are required for a party. I realized that I took their servants just as much as granted as the Bennets did. I must have known that somebody made an easy life possible for my heroines in Pride and Prejudice, I just did not get how much work it entailed and how difficult life could be for those servants. Baker’s vivid and precise description of the washing process showed the many hours of getting water, heating water, scrubbing, rinsing, scrubbing again, rinsing and finally hanging up the laundry required of two housemaids. Young girls that were taken for granted by the Bennets and were just not noted by their visitors. My beloved Mr Darcy all of a sudden became a person who looks right through servants and has no clue as to how they live. It makes you wonder whether Jane Austen herself had a clear view of how her servants were living their lives in order to make hers pleasant. I liked the way Baker described life at the Bennets and her vivid descriptions of the household, chores to be done or the landscape surrounding them. I think that she fell short of plausible lifes for servants Rachel, Polly and James. Too many coincidences were required to justify their choices and their future. I definitely liked the way Baker made me look differently at Mrs Bennet and ungainly Mary. In two short but lovingly written passages Baker showed us how five heavy pregnancies, one miscarriage (of the ever so important heir) and a lack of appreciation by her husband turn a young carefree woman into Mrs Bennet. And just imagine being the plain and unattractive sister in a household dedicated to finding every one a good husband. It isn’t until the other (attractive) sisters leave that Mary is finally discovered to be clever and talented, and because of being happy, capable of snatching a husband. Though I really liked Longbourn it left me to wonder what would have happened if Jane Austen had written a novel about the servants in her world.  Baker made sure that no detail of the servants’gruesome lifes escaped my attention (including the sanitary nappies of six women and the contents of the bedpans), it made me miss Austen’s subtle pen.



About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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