Jo Baker's "Longbourn" is a re-telling of "Pride & Prejudice" from the servants' perspective. The four servants of Longbourn, Sarah, Polly, and Mr. and Mrs. Hill, are the primary characters, with the Bennets, Darcys and Bingleys showing up only peripherally.
As a result, we get a whole different picture of the laughing, happy upstairs life portrayed in Austen's classic novel. Sarah's hands are always chilblained and blistered, and she has to be careful not to let the fluids touch the precious frocks above. She's expected to clean up every mess that the daughters make without complaint, do without sleep, and more ... all to keep peace in the household. When a new footman, James, is hired, he tries to take some of the pressure off of Sarah ... in addition to his own grueling schedule.
What Baker has done with this book is show the real challenges of life in Regency times. We so often read novels about the upper crust, but seldom get to see what life must have been like for the staff. It's clear to me that Baker has not only done her homework on the period, but that she's good at creating sympathetic characters who are, at the same time, well-rounded. Sarah has ambitions to see the world; Polly wants to learn to read and become a teacher herself.
And, of course, everyone has their secrets.
Highly recommended for Austen fans.