Mike Fleming

BREAKING: The Jo Baker novel Longbourn, which tells the Pride And Prejudice story from the point of view of the servants at the Bennett estate, has been acquired for publication by Alfred Knopf in the U.S. and movie rights were acquired by Random House Studio and Focus Features. The novel will also be published this fall by Transworld in the UK and translation rights have already been sold in Spain, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Brazil, France, and Sweden.

Riffing off the Jane Austen tale, Longbourn will highlight the constant chaos swirling downstairs, the preparation for lavish balls, and the housekeeper’s real thoughts about the family patriarch. But it will also reveal the tragic consequences of the Napoleonic Wars and focus on a romance between a newly arrived footman and a housemaid, the novel’s main characters.

“Jane Austen was my first experience of grown-up literature,” Baker said. “But as I read and re-read her books, I began to become aware that if I’d been living at the time, I wouldn’t have got to go to the ball; I would have been stuck at home with the sewing. Just a few generations back, my family were in service. Aware of that English class thing, Pride And Prejudice begins to read a little differently.”

“It’s a stunning achievement,” says Diana Coglianese, who will edit the book for Knopf. “While Longbourn brings to life a different side of the world Austen first created, I was impressed even more by the way this novel stands as a transporting, fully realized work of fiction in its own right.”

Said Focus Features CEO James Schamus, “Jo Baker fully inhabits the lives of her characters — and in Longbourn, they are ones who previously existed in the background only. By compellingly exploring new avenues in the world of Pride And Prejudice she has fashioned a tale of a caliber that filmmakers dream about. We are delighted to be partnering again with our friends and colleagues at Random House Studio to co-finance and produce what will be a highly anticipated motion picture for audiences worldwide.”