I did not like this book. Sorry.
First of all, several people describe it as a retelling of Pride and Prejudice and i think that's really misleading. This book has little to do with P&P and that was disappointing to me. Just as the servants were in the background of P&P, P&P was in the background of Longbourn. That makes sense with P&P, but is problematic in the case of Longbourn because its huge draw is the fact that it is a "retelling of P&P".
I did like simply thinking about the servants and all they had to go through to allow the wealthy to live their lives of luxury. The line on the inside cover was probably my favorite in the whole book: "If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she'd most likely be a sight more careful with them."
However, they seemed to have very modern attitudes, which is a fault that many TV shows, movies and books contain these days. For example, it seemed unlikely that the servants would dwell so much on the dirty tasks they had to do. If that was your job and life, thinking about how much you hate it all the time would only make your life miserable. I just think more of them would have accepted that that's the way things were.
I didn't really care about any of the characters. Especially not James, despite so much of the book being spent trying to convince me that i desperately needed to know what happened in his past. When he disappeared, i really couldn't have cared less whether he was dead or alive, happy or miserable.
Baker definitely added some grit to the story. Plenty of details about human waste as well as mentions of masturbation, homosexuality and adultery. I wasn't a fan of all that. And the Bennets (except Mary) are portrayed so negatively. Even Jane. Sweet Jane. It's like we're supposed to scorn the Bennet family for employing servants period.
I didn't appreciate the secret illegitimate son added to Mr. Bennet's backstory. I did, however, approve of the addition of Mrs. Bennet's miscarriage. That's definitely something that could easily have happened before the events of P&P. I also think it realistic that Wickham would have taken advantage of the maids, so i didn't mind that addition.
I did like the research that went into Longbourn and that Baker was careful to make sure the timeline lined up. I just think that the whole thing fell short of what it could have been. It was a good idea, but poorly executed.
*Review written on June 8, 2015.*