Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
What prompted Mrs. Bennet to marry Mr. Bennet? Was their marriage always one of disinterest and little affection?
These are just some of the things I sometimes wonder about Bennets. Jane Austen paints their marriage as one of unhappiness, inequality, and discontent. Was there ever a time of happiness and hope? I was so glad when I discovered that someone published a story about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. I was even more pleased when I discovered that the story was fully comprised of letters and diary entries. And not only does Mrs. Bennet have her say in this book, but Mr. Bennet does too, as the diary entries are from him! With Mrs. Bennet’s letters to her sister and Mr. Bennet’s diary entries readers can observe their honest thoughts, candid feelings, and private experiences. But readers should be warned that the content of these letters are at times very shocking, bawdy, and a bit unseemly. It would appear that the act of physical congress is often the topic of choice in both Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s communications… (Recommended for Mature Audiences)
The story begins with their wedding night and it is soon revealed that Mrs. Bennet, at the tender age of fifteen, had a pressing ulterior motive for accepting Mr. Bennet’s sudden proposal. Just like her daughters, Mrs. Bennet liked a red coat very well – a Colonel Millar to be specific – and like her daughters, she was devastated when his regiment left town. But it would appear that a couple of years later their paths cross again. Will their passionate romance be rekindled? Will all be told? Or will Mrs. Bennet find contentment with her family and life with Mr. Bennet?
While I absolutely adore the idea of a Pride and Prejudice prequel about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, I’m afraid this story isn’t one that left me satisfied or happy. The author’s portrayal of Mr. Bennet is most unflattering and unlikable. It seems from the minute he says “I do” he is adamant about procuring a son, and is at his wife incessantly until she is with child. Furthermore, besides being careless and indolent, this Mr. Bennet is obtuse, unfeeling, vulgar, and keeps very poor personal hygiene. (In short, he was a little gross.)
Mrs. Bennet is portrayed in a slightly more favorable light – readers see her attempting to improve herself several times (which is admirable), but in the end it seems she is no better off for those attempts. Nothing positive is gained, no redemption or personal growth. Instead, at the end, the author heavily hints that Mrs. Bennet might be losing her mental faculties and is becoming more and more mentally unstable.
Two other aspects of the story I wasn’t too fond with were Elizabeth and Mr. Collins. Elizabeth was portrayed as a troublesome and angry infant who apparently loathed her mother since fetus. (I think this was just a trifle overdone). Also, the Mr. Collins who comes to visit was the same age as Mrs. Bennet. Not sure how this is possible as in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Collins (the son) is a “man of five and twenty.” If it is Mr. Collins (the father), then he would need to have had an illegitimate child three years before the events of this book take place, at the age of fifteen… And why would Mr. Collins and the Bennets assume he is certain to inherit Longbourn’s at this point, they are only three years into their marriage, Mrs. Bennet has still many more years of child-bearing…
While I appreciated the author’s style, tone, and use of language, I’m sorry to say I found the overall content disappointing and disheartening. It wasn’t my cup of tea to see Jane Austen’s characters (who yes, are sometimes seriously flawed and ridiculous) portrayed in such negative and unsympathetic light. Readers who are not ardent admirers of the Austenesque genre may not be as bothered by this, but I’m afraid I was. I think there is a wonderful and compelling story to tell about Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and their marriage, and I hope one day someone will write it!