A Book Review ~
The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough
I have been on a Jane Austen kick lately. I have been reading remakes and retellings, romance and sci-fi, so I guess it was natural to find myself reading this story about Miss Mary Bennet! The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet picks up about 20 years after Pride & Prejudice. In Pride & Prejudice we learned all about Jane and Elizabeth, and now it’s time to learn about Mary.
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From Amazon: “Everyone knows the story of Elizabeth and Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. But what about their sister Mary? At the conclusion of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Mary, bookish, awkward, and by all accounts, unmarriageable, is sentenced to a dull, provincial existence in the backwaters of Britain.
The story begins as the neglected Bennet sister is released from the stultifying duty of caring for her insufferable mother. Though many would call a woman of Mary’s age a spinster, she has blossomed into a beauty to rival that of her famed sisters. Her violet eyes and perfect figure bewitch the eligible men in the neighborhood. And even though her family urges her to marry, romance and frippery hold no attraction. Instead, she is determined to set off on an adventure of her own. Fired with zeal by the newspaper letters of the mysterious Argus, she resolves to publish a book about the plight of England’s poor. Plunging from one predicament into another, Mary finds herself stumbling closer to long-buried secrets, unanticipated dangers, and unlooked-for romance.
Meanwhile, the other dearly loved characters of Pride and Prejudice fret about the missing Mary while they contend with difficulties of their own. Darcy’s political ambitions consume his ardor, and he bothers with Elizabeth only when the impropriety of her family seems to threaten his career. Lydia, wild and charming as ever, drinks and philanders her way into dire straits; Kitty, a young widow of means, occupies herself with gossip and shopping; and Jane, naïve and trusting as ever, spends her days ministering to her crop of boys and her adoring, if not entirely faithful, husband.
Yet, with the shadowy and mysterious figure of Darcy’s right-hand man, Ned Skinner, lurking at every corner, it is clear that all is not what it seems at idyllic Pemberley. Shocking truths are revealed, love, both old and new, is tested, and all learn the value of true independence in a novel for every woman who has wanted to leave her mark on the world.
I’ll be honest, it took me a while to get into this book. McCullough crushed my impressions of some of the relationships that were started in Pride & Prejudice, and I really didn’t want to have to change my thoughts on certain characters. I’m not going to give too much away, because in the end I did enjoy the book! But, like I said, it took me a while to get into it.
The characters are not portrayed very flatteringly! So, I can see why this book stirred up controversy when published. McCullough is messing with some iconic Jane Austen characters. And, quite frankly, doesn’t paint them very flatteringly! Once I let my preconceived notions go, I was able to enjoy the story. For myself, I had to just forget about Jane Austen’s characters and just accept these as separate characters. I was very disappointed in how McCullough portrayed Lizzie and Mr. Darcy, especially through the beginning of the book.
The characters grew so much as the story progressed. I kept reading and am glad I did. Go on a journey through each of the five sisters’ lives. It’s not always pretty or enjoyable, but it will captivate you. And, you’ll want to continue reading to see what happens next!
If you are a fan of Jane Austen and Pride & Prejudice, I do recommend The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet. And, while you probably won’t enjoy McCullough’s portrayal of your favorite characters, it is worth continuing. So, immerse yourself yet again into the world originally crafted by Jane Austen.
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Becki is the author and founder of A Book Lover’s Adventures. She has a degree in elementary education, has worked and volunteered in libraries for years, and spent several years in the travel industry. All of this has led to a love of books and travel. Becki loves to share her love by finding literary escapes to share!