A Look into the Soul and Heart of Mary Bennet
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Review Copy from Author
Mary Bennet. Is. An island. Or at least she tries to be… Growing up a home where she was continuously ignored, laughed at, and set down – Mary has built up defensive walls around herself. She prides herself on maintaing power over her emotions, of being impenetrable to the trials andtrivialities that surround her. Instead of trying to prove herself as “the most accomplished girl in the neighborhood,” Mary has spent the last couple of years achieving some independence by working as a governess to the new family living in Netherfield Park. But when her father passes away and the new owner of Longbourn comes to Meryton, Mary’s hard-won composure and self-control is put to the test…
Squee!!! Mary Bennet is such an admirable and loveable heroine in this novel! Experience and serious self-evaluation has helped Mary lose some of her vanity and pride. Working with children and witnessing the blissful unions of her older sisters has softened her rigidity and self-righteousness. I simply loved this reverent and plausible development of Mary Bennet’s character. Shannon Winslow did such an incredible job of maintaining the essence of the original Mary Bennet, yet at the same time, transforming her into a fully realized and fleshed-out heroine.
Here are some passages which perfectly display the emotional evolution Mary experiences in this novel:
“Despite her determination to remain cool-headed, uninvited emotions had instantly assailed her…she felt as if the combined pressure would burst her heart wide open, and it seemed impossible that her companions should remain unaware of her painful inner turmoil.” – page 116
“In the past, she had been able to moralize over the infamous sins of others with superior self-satisfaction, both because she had maintained a degree of detachment from their plights, and because she had never been tempted to such behavior herself. Could she say the same now?” – page 257
One of my favorite aspects of The Darcys of Pemberley (book one in this series) was the original and well-drawn characters Shannon Winslow created, Ruth Sanditon and Mr. Sanditon. In Return to Longbourn, Ms. Winslow fashions two more engaging and intriguing characters – Tristan Collins, younger brother to William Collins and heir to Longbourn, and Harrison Farnsworth, the taciturn widower of Netherfield Park and Mary’s employer. Both characters added some interesting drama, excitement, and romance to the story!
Another aspect of this novel that I was utterly delighted with was the subtle nods to Jane Eyre and Sense and Sensibility. With Mary as a governess, Mr. Farnsworth as an unpredictable and brooding master, and a large house party of fashionable friends I was often reminded of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (one of my all-time faves). In addition, a story of two unwed, diverse sisters – one impulsive and emotional, the other practical and stoic – felt reminiscent of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. And Tristan Collins, a newly arrived bachelor whose charming facade hides some secrets, seemed to share some similarities with Willoughby!
As you might already guess by reading the above review, I loved Return to Longbourn and recommend it to all fans of Austenesque literature! Reverent, enthralling, and magnificent!