Oh, hai! I read books, then I write down what I think of them.
I am not the biggest fan of Jane Austen. She feigned illness to avoid my namesake (true story) and my family has harboured a grudge against her ever since.
Longbourn by Jo Baker is a companion novel to everybody-but-me's favourite Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, and follows the main narrative of that book from the point-of-view of the Bennett's housemaid, Sarah.
The first test of a book like this is always whether it's doing more than hitching to the coattails of a classic text. Lynn Shepherd's are an example of when it doesn't. This does, although at times in a rather heavy-handed way, the scrubbing of Lydia's petticoats upon her triumphant wedded return to the house being a particular example. But it also sheds new light on the wider context of P&P, which I - in, I freely admit, ignorance - had never thought to apply: the Napoleonic wars crop up, giving the dastardly Wickham's character another blow; there is the source of Bingley's fortune.
It's own story, a romance with a light sprinkling of social commentary, is pleasing enough should you care for that sort of thing. I don't usually and, as a result, found the end as meh as I find almost all romances.
Those who've never read P&P, or seen the film, or the BBC translation, are unlikely to find much here. Those who are fans of P&P may find themselves bored when the book takes itself away to its own storyline. Scholars who enjoy Austen for her wit and cynical take on society will find such aspects absent. I liked it well enough, but I would be more interested to read something by Baker when she is unhindered by adherence to a concept.