Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
TYPE OF AUSTENESQUE NOVEL: Alternate Point-of-View, Minor Character
TIME FRAME: From Mary Bennet’s early childhood to 3-4 years after the close of Pride and Prejudice
MAIN CHARACTERS: The Bennet Family, The Long Family, The Lucas Family, George Rovere, Peter Bushell, George Wickham, Mrs. Knowles
WHY I WANTED TO READ THIS NOVEL:
I’ve read a couple of novels that placed Mary Bennet in the spotlight and loved them! I know many might find Mary to be dull and priggish, but I’ve always had an affinity for her and felt myself able to understand her feelings of awkwardness and isolation.
WHAT I LOVED:
- Past, Present, and Future: This 400+ page story encompasses a lot of time and events. It begins with Mary’s memories of childhood (the disappointment over a lack of heir and the growing discord between her parents), travels through the events of Pride and Prejudice, and then takes us a couple years beyond the events of Jane Austen’s story where we see what fate has in store for our neglected heroine. I really enjoyed how thorough and extensive this story was. All these details and illustrated experiences of Mary’s life helped manifest a full understanding and appreciation of her character.
- All That We Didn’t See: I especially enjoyed seeing the moments that “happened” during the course of Pride and Prejudice that were not known to us before. Like how Mary catches wind of Wickham’s and Darcy’s true natures before anyone else, how Elizabeth’s reactions and behavior around Darcy are very telling to someone who is observant and knows her well, and what other significant events took place during the Netherfield ball.
- New Characters: Since Mary is neglected by her siblings and parents, we are introduced to other characters she has more interactions with. These include Mrs. Longs nieces – Cassandra and Helen, nephew of the former tenant of Netherfield Park – George Rovere, Mrs. Knowles – the mother of Mary’s former tutor, and a talented fiddle player – Peter Bushell. These new characters were fascinating and wonderfully well-drawn. I loved their distinct personalities and how they had developed storylines…some which felt a little familiar – Mrs. Knowles, I’m looking at you.
- Observant, Sympathetic, and Not Priggish: I like how Mary, because she is slightly removed from the center of the story, sees things others don’t. Ms. Paynter portrays Mary as kind-hearted towards others, loyal in her friendships, and forgiving. She is aware of her own flaws and works on improving her deficiencies of character. When Mary shares her moral extracts, she doesn’t do it to moralize or preach to others, she does it because she is tongue-tied in difficult situations and strives to find something to say. With nothing coming forth in her own mind, she grabs onto the wise words of others – which always seems to be the wrong choice. I agree with Ms. Paynter on all these points and believe that this portrayal of Mary does not stray from Jane Austen’s original character.
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- I may have felt one spot or two was either too drawn out or too brief, but other than that I couldn’t find anything not to my liking.
An honest and intimate look into the heart and soul of Mary Bennet! While Mary may be the “forgotten sister,” this retelling gives her the chance to share the story – the whole story – from her clear-sighted, truthful, and unbiased perspective. I would definitely recommend this book to readers who are sympathetic towards quiet and overlooked characters.