This charmingly romantic story brings Mary Bennet out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
As a huge Pride and Prejudice fan, I have read numerous different interpretations and continuations of the story that tell it from the perspective of different characters – yet Mary Bennet is always overlooked for being the plain and serious middle child.
However, for her first novel Janice Hadlow gives a really lovely and hopeful story for Mary that sees her blossoming from a girl who feels awkward about her looks and being compared with her sisters to being a woman who finds acceptance and love.
Written with great attention to detail and finding a way to bring many of the familiar characters into the story as in the wake of Mr Bennet’s death Mary struggles to find a place where she is accepted, Hadlow offers a really fascinating character study on these well known characters. By seeing Elizabeth, Jane, Mr Darcy, Mr Collins for example through Mary’s eyes the reader is able to pick up the subtle details from the original that perhaps were overlooked.
It is a really thoughtful and reflective read that draws the reader in as it goes on – hearing about her difficult relationship with her mother, her realising her feelings for Mr Hayward and the description of the Lake District are all written beautifully – fitting in with Jane Austen’s style perfectly. This is really a wonderful accompaniment to Pride and Prejudice.
The reader is also given a real sense of the depth of her feelings and passion – particularly when it comes to poetry, reading and music, her love of these are interwoven throughout the book and used to help develop her character further and in turn our understanding of how Mary sees herself.
The Other Bennet Sister deals with a lot of issues in a concise and sympathetic way – including grief, loss, isolation and the complexity of family relationships that play a huge part in the way Mary blossoms into a confident young woman. But at its centre, this is a book about hope and happiness and to see Mary getting there through a series of trials and misunderstandings makes for engaging reading – particularly when she becomes her own person away from being compared with her sisters.
It is witty, charming and romantic which makes it an ideal read for anyone who loves the world of Jane Austen.
By Emma Clarendon
The Other Bennet Sister is available to buy now.