Are you a Jane, a Lizzy or a … Sarah?

November 27, 2013 by  
Filed under current, Reading Space


Longbourn by Jo Baker

One of the pleasures of reading classic novels is playing the ‘which character am I?’ game. Am I a Jane or a Lizzy? A Mary or a Lydia? A Kitty…or a Sarah?

Wait, what? There’s no ‘Sarah’ in Pride and Prejudice

Actually, there is. She’s the one getting up before all the others in the Longbourn house, washing the Bennet sister’s muddied petticoats, getting the house prepared for the day ahead. She’s the housemaid who, along with the other servants, keeps the Bennet family clean, warm, and fed.

Longbourn is a fresh take on the world of Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice. It shows the familiar Darcy-and-Lizzy romance from a different perspective – from below the stairs. In Jo Baker’s inspired retelling, we see, hear and feel the work that goes into keeping a great house functioning. And the story of Sarah, the housemaid, is as fascinating and poignant as any of the above-the-stairs Bennet girls.

Which character in Pride and Prejudice am I? Well, I’m a Sarah, of course…



Are you an upstairs or downstairs-type person? Do you have a passion for Pride and Prejudice like I do?

About Our Reading Space Contributor

Carolyn Leslie Feb 13Carolyn Leslie is an IPEd-accredited editor, a writer, an award-winning book reviewer and a business chick, as well as Mama to two little boys. Carolyn loves books, blogs, op shops, gardening, mucking around in the kitchen and dancing crazily with her kids (and sometimes even with her husband). She dreams of someday having a quiet and (totally) uninterrupted read…

You can follow her on twitter @carolynleslie. Or if email is your thing, drop her a line sometime at


5 Responses to “Are you a Jane, a Lizzy or a … Sarah?”
  1. Chris Owen says:

    Interesting concept for a book and a brave one when PnP is soooooo beloved.. That’s a ,maybe for me because I confess I’m not much of a JA fan! Quelle horreur! Don’t think you’ll speak to me again Caolyn!

    • Carolyn Leslie says:

      Oh Chris! What a confession to make!

      You are right about Longbourn being an interesting concept. It makes you rethink the major P&P plot points, asking you to examine the effects/consequences/results/politics etc of the big scenes.

      However, it is also a good tale on its own. Readers can still enjoy Longbourn even if they don’t intimately know P&P.

      It’s 200 years since P&P was published. To celebrate, there is a major project coming out of the UK, where authors like Joanna Trollope and Alexander McCall Smith re-imagine the Austen books in a modern-day setting. Be interesting to see how they re-work the material!

  2. Carolyn Leslie says:

    Angela – I hope you enjoy it! I’m about to start a book called ‘Servants’ by Lucy Lethbridge. It’s a non-fiction book about working ‘downstairs’ in a large estate. Be interesting to see how it ‘really’ was…

    BTW: I am the (partial*) result of an upstairs-downstairs scandal. My great-great-grandmother – the daughter of a castle-living Lord (or somesuch) – ran away with the stableboy…

    (*partial because I have so many family strands entwined within me…including Belfast boys, Scottish immigrants and incredibly strong Australian women…)