CBR11 Bingo – Remix
When tackling the Remix bingo square, it was OBVIOUSLY going to be some sort of Pride & Prejudice variation, with the actual challenge being which one to pick. Then I read LanierHgts’ review of Longbourn, and it immediately got bumped to the top of my list.
Unlike other remixes that tend to modernize the story, or speculate what happened next, this book takes place during the events of the original Pride & Prejudice, but is told from the point of view of the house’s staff: Sarah, Mr & Mrs Hill, Polly, and James.
It parallels the familiar events of the classic novel, but from the behind the scenes. It’s a fascinating perspective because the original story emphasizes the difference in class between the Bennets and the Bingleys or Darcys, and we feel sympathy for their lower status; this book shows the wide difference between the Bennets and their servants. For the first time, you see the privilege that the Bennets do have, and I found myself being frustrated with my beloved characters and how they treated ‘the help’.
There is a tendency in reading Austen’s novels (or anything from that time) to romanticize the era, because of the picture that she paints. Baker takes the shine out of it, explaining in depth the realities of life at that time… everything from the struggle of washing that whimsical mud out of the hems of Elizabeth’s dresses to the practical elements of six menstruating women in one house (God bless the inventors of modern solutions here). Austen refers to the militia only in terms of the distraction that soldiers bring to young women, but Baker gives us a look into what a soldier’s life at that time would actually be like, and the horrors of war. We can be amused at how novel things like sugar are in Austen’s story, but Baker explains how the sugar trade at that time was directly tied to the slave trade. Really, it becomes more of a historical fiction than a straight out romance.
It didn’t make for a particularly happy story for the most part, but I still couldn’t put it down, and constantly found myself reflecting on things in a different way. I’d definitely recommend it to any P&P diehards out there, as a great remix option.