Book Club Discussion: Longbourn, by Jo Baker

Welcome to the Book Club discussion for Longbourn, by Jo Baker. Below is a list of discussion questions to get the conversation started. We are excited to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. Feel free to answer all the questions, or pick and choose a few questions to discuss!

1. What did you think of Jo Baker’s choice to include multiple characters’ perspectives? Did you prefer the perspective of any specific character over the others?

2. Thoughts on the introductory quotes at the beginning of each chapter?

3. Several of the characters had secrets (Mrs. Hill, Mr. Bennet, James, Mr. Hill) Did you suspect any of these secrets before they were revealed?

4. Have you read Pride and Prejudice? For those who have read it, do you feel like it was necessary background reading or did Jo Baker’s novel fully stand on its own?

5. What did you think of Jo Baker’s portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet, the much-loved heroine of Pride and Prejudice? Comments on her portrayals of any other characters from Pride and Prejudice?

6. Focus Features purchases the film rights to the book several years ago. Who would you like to see play Sarah and James?

Questions by Hello Book Lover and Random House.

Explore further: A fun Q&A with Jo Baker from NPR!


Hi, I’m Lauren, cofounder of Hello Book Lover! I am jumpstarting the Longbourn discussion with my responses below:

  1. What did you think of Jo Baker’s choice to include multiple characters’ perspectives? Did you prefer the perspective of one character over the others?

This caught me off guard at first. I am not sure I can think of another book I’ve read written in this format. I got used to it really quickly, and didn’t really think about it again. It was interesting to read multiple points of view in real time.

2. Thoughts on the introductory quotes at the beginning of each chapter?

I believe the quotes were pulled directly from Pride and Prejudice, right? I liked them, because they acted a subtle markers of the Pride and Prejudice narrative happening upstairs.

On another note, I liked that Mr. Bennet was portrayed as kind of a jerk and Jo Baker made you feel a little sorry for Mrs. Bennet!

3. Several of the characters had secrets (Mrs. Hill, Mr. Bennet, James, Mr. Hill) Did you suspect any of the plot twists related to these secrets before they were revealed?

I wholly suspected James’ secret, Baker made it pretty obvious. The Mr. Bennet/Mrs. Hill plot twist was a complete surprise! The way she revealed that James was their son was fairly subtle and in one sentence. I had to read it twice to make sure I was interpreting correctly!

4. Have you read Pride and Prejudice? For those who have read it, do you feel like it was necessary background reading or did Jo Baker’s novel fully stand on its own?

I think the book could easily stand on its own, but, in my opinion, half the fun of Longbourn was seeing the narrative of Pride and Prejudice through a completely different lens. I am not sure I would have liked the book as much if I hadn’t read Jane Austen’s novel. It kind of felt like being part of a secret background plot.

5. What do you think of Jo Baker’s portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet, the much-loved heroine of Pride and Prejudice?

Seeing how Jo Baker portrayed various characters from Pride and Prejudice was the most enjoyable part of the book for me. I rather enjoyed that Elizabeth was not depicted in the best light. This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I have never really loved Elizabeth Bennet as a character and never fully understood everyone’s obsession with the love story between her and Mr. Darcy. Jo Baker makes Lizzie Bennet seem less steadfast than in Jane Austen’s novel. She depicts Elizabeth’s doubt before her marriage, her uncertainty when she first moved in with Mr. Darcy, and her eagerness to please her new husband. This felt very real to me and I was more on board with Jo Baker’s version of Elizabeth Bennet than I was with Jane Austen’s. Jane Austen never convinced me that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy were a perfect match, and I like that Jo Baker subtly highlighted some of the imperfections in their union.

6. Focus Features purchases the film rights to the book several years ago. Who would you like to see play Sarah and James?

I am so terrible with actors’ names, I will leave this one to the rest of you.

Please add your comments below!

1 thought on “Book Club Discussion: Longbourn, by Jo Baker”

  1. #1 You forget how separated the classes were in those days, therefore the totally different perspectives. How awful to be on the servant side and watch the spoiled rich class. I did like seeing the contrast of both sides just as a reminder to see how far society has come, but still needs to go. I liked seeing the harder side of life as a lot of times the “better” side is portrayed which tends to be a more comfortable feeling. Reading this I was exhausted by the daily chores and what was expected.
    #3 I did suspect something was up with Mrs. Hill and Mr. Bennett. When it was mentioned she had a baby I figured it had to do with Mr. Bennett. What surprised me was it was James. How sad and heart wrenching she wasn’t able to keep her own son and when she did have him back as an adult she couldn’t tell him at the time.
    #5 I did appreciate the more realistic view of Elizabeth. Too often these characters are portrayed as very sweet and almost victims, when in reality they have no concept of what a true hardship is. It is all relative to what you are exposed to and/or used to, how each individual perspective is.

    Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it!

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