Bingo Square: Backlog
This is far from the book that has been in my to read pile longest when all my books are taken into consideration but purely from a Kindle/e-book perspective, it’s definitely towards the bottom of my library.
Since I am so late to the game, I doubt there is much I can add to the discussion at this point. The novel is yet another spin on Pride and Prejudice, but instead of telling the story of Elizabeth and Darcy with a new gimmick, this novel makes Elizabeth and Darcy the background characters, and instead focuses on the men and women behind the scenes: the help. The ones that make sure all the dresses are cleaned and packed for the various trips, that the tea and meals are served, and that the house is otherwise kept in order with five daughters and an excitable mistress.
Sarah, the older of the two maids, is the closest to the main character though Mrs. Hill and James Smith, the new footman, are equally important. Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper, is a kind older woman who has been as mother like as possible to Sarah and Polly, the two maids, both of whom she pulled out of workhouses when the household needed more help. However, with five daughters in the family, she is just as worried about her future as Mrs. Bennett. After all, it would not be unusual for a distant male heir, like Mr. Collins, to replace the entire staff with his own people upon inheriting. Unfortunately for them all, Mrs. Bennett doesn’t have the same insight into her daughters as Mrs. Hill does, and tries to marry off the wrong daughter to Mr. Collins.
Sarah is probably around the same age as Elizabeth and Jane, and at first, the hiring of the new footman gives her hope for romance and adventure, but James Smith is distant and aloof to her. Still, Mr. Bingley’s arrival causes excitement among the servants as well because meeting some of his more worldly servants make Sarah long for more. All she sees for her future is daily grind, and she is ready for love and romance. James has secrets of his own that make him keep himself at a remove though as the reader quickly realizes he is smitten with Sarah despite himself and his feelings of inferiority.
One thing I quite enjoyed was the way the novel showed how the servants could be more vulnerable and how they often noticed things were amiss before the family of the house. One example of this is the failed marriage proposal from Mr. Collins, but another is how Mr. Wickham behaves around the staff, and becomes someone they soon try to avoid.
Some of the Austen spin offs are fun reads but while this one focuses on different characters, the pacing and social analysis of this one make it very reminiscent of the original novel. This one isn’t a page turner but a very fitting tribute to Austen and the world she created for anyone that wants more.
Bingo Square: Backlog