Another Pride and Prejudice bit of fan fiction, this time from the perspective of the servants. As a huge Jane Austen fan, I cannot express how much I loved this book. It cleverly re-imagines what is happening “downstairs” both in response to what is happening “upstairs,” as well as an imagining of what is happening in the servants own lives.
Cleverly, each chapter starts with a quote from Pride and Prejudice so that the reader knows what is happening upstairs with the Bennett family. The main character downstairs is Sarah, the housemaid. Although the housekeeper Mrs. Hill, the aging butler/man-servant Mr. Hill, and young Polly (whose actual name is Mary but it had to be changed since there was already a Miss Mary in the household) a child who does whatever needs doing. They themselves form a sort of family, as they have been separated from their own by their social circumstances (or in the case of Sarah, orphaned). Another young man-servant (footman) appears under mysterious circumstances and is hired by Mr. Bennett at the urging of the housekeeper (much to the delight of Mrs. Bennett for whom having a footman elevates the social status of the family).
We are treated to the fussing over ribbons and mud-stained petticoats of the Bennett girls, the balls and comings and goings of the family, as well as the dramas of Mrs. Bennett, although all generally as background noise. Where the story comes alive with the original characters is as we see the truly despicable character of Mr. Wickham, and begin to understand more about Mr. Bennett. Elizabeth Bennett is also portrayed in a different light than in the original (although I still love her), as is Mary. Sadly, Mr. Darcy (who I will forever picture as Colin Firth), does not appear much. We also get to see the daily lives of the servants and the love-hate relationship that those downstairs have with those upstairs in what is very much a social commentary.
The book departs entirely from the original story after Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding – when she moves to Pemberley. That part of her story is also imagined through the eyes of the downstairs staff. The story ends with a sort of epilogue, including some surprises – explaining even more the various downstairs characters’ lives – and leaving you both satisfied and wanting even more. Overall, an excellent piece of fan fiction and a must-read for all P&P fans.