Jun 272016

The Forgotten Sister“Poor, Obscure, Plain, and Little” Mary

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Source: Purchased

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


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

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  19 Responses to “The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice by Jennifer Paynter”


    Great review Meredith! This one missed my radar for some reason. Adding it on Goodreads now 🙂


    This sounds like an enjoyable book! Great review, Meredith! I think that Mary is a great character to highlight in a book, and agree that most people probably overlook her or unfairly write her off.


    Lovely review Meredith and so glad you loved it! I enjoyed this story as well but it has probably been over a year since I first read it. I actually love reading stories on the minor characters, especially Mary, Kitty, Georgiana, Charlotte and even Lydia. There certainly are some wonderful ones out there. I think you will enjoy the other two that you have as well on Mary.


      Thank you, Carole! I am with you! I sometimes prefer sequels about minor characters to sequels about Darcy and Lizzy! *gasp* I like how this one was more of a retelling than a sequel though.


    Sounds like a delightful book! There’s so much to discover in Jane Austen’s minor characters, whole worlds of echoes and potentialities. Mary’s one of the most interesting ones to me—always right, but in all the wrong ways; the ultimate awkward!


    I appreciate your review so much that I´ll write it down in my wish list!. And it´s really intelligent to put Mary in an observer position, realizing about the events before the main characters notice about them, bravo for Mary!. What a good idea Jennifer Paynter had!. I like to explore Mary´s possibilities and, in fact, last Christmas I was gifted with “The unexpected Miss Bennet” by Patrice Sarath, one of the first reviews I read in your blog, Meredith, and it´s about Mary. I want to read it soon because it´s easy that other stories about Mary start appearing as new releases, and I don´t want my pile of books to grow more than it´s growing at this time LOL.
    I´m curious about Mr Bushell, the talented fiddle player… don´t you think fiddle fits with piano? 😉


      Thank you so much, Teresa! I’m glad you enjoyed the review! I think Ms. Paynter got a lot right about Mary, she didn’t transform her or change her fundamentally. She worked with what was already there. I love The Unexpected Miss Bennet, definitely one of my faves! There is also a lovely Mary Bennet storyline in Shannon Winslow’s Return to Longbourn. So far those two and this book would be my favorite Mary stories. 🙂

      You might be on to something with Mr. Bushell… 😉


    I really like this review, so this book is now on my TBR list on amazon 🙂
    I kind of like Mary, I am very fon dof the couple of books that I have read and have her as a main character or co-protagonist.
    I am especiially intrigued about the part on “All That We Didn’t See” where she realises Lizzy’s attitude towards Darcy.


      Thanks, Ana! I’m glad you enjoyed the review! I love books about Mary too! 🙂 Yes, I find it easy to believe that she would pick up on Lizzy’s different behavior – even more so than Jane, because she was all wrapped up with Bingley!


    I have been eager for your thoughts on this one so I could get your take on the book. Sounds fantastic and I’m adding it to my list. Great review, Meredith!


    I so appreciate your review of this book, Meredith. I own it, started it, and for some reason didn’t find it my cup of tea. However, because of this review, I will now go back and start over and soldier through. Because now the story really does sound good. And when YOU give a book 5 out of 5, then it’s definitely worth my time.
    I’ve always had a real soft spot for Kitty and Mary. And they seem like cardboard characters to fill the need of certain parts of the action. They don’t enjoy any change or development. And those characters always intrigue me and I wonder about them after the main story is done. And yet, it’s Austen whose fans are now enjoying this amazing phenomenon of fan fiction. Lucky us! Thanks again, M.


      Thanks for reading my review, Michelle! I can understand how it might be a little off-putting. Mary goes through a bit of a dark and melancholy phase and Elizabeth from this perspective, with her sharp wit and playfulness, doesn’t appear as kind and likable. But I thought that was true for Mary to think and feel. Like you I really love how these characters can be fleshed out and developed more! I hope you do enjoy this one more if you decide to give it another go!


    I’ve always thought Mary and I had something in common and, like you, I’ve always felt there was something more in her other than what we see in P&P. So I’m very happy this story got 5 stars from you! Looking forward to reading it! 😀 I’ve recently read a book about Mary by Victoria Kincaid. It’s a novella and it is very sweet!


      I always appreciate the quiet characters…since that is how I am in real life! 🙂 I’m glad to hear your praise for Victoria Kincaid’s story about Mary – I’ll have to check it out! 🙂


    Well, if you loved this one so much, I’ll definitely have to read it!

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