Mary, the bookish ugly duckling of Pride and Prejudice’s five Bennet sisters, emerges from the shadows and transforms into a desired woman with choices of her own.
What if Mary Bennet’s life took a different path from that laid out for her in Pride and Prejudice? What if the frustrated intellectual of the Bennet family, the marginalized middle daughter, the plain girl who takes refuge in her books, eventually found the fulfillment enjoyed by her prettier, more confident sisters? This is the plot of The Other Bennet Sister, a debut novel with exactly the affection and authority to satisfy Austen fans.
Ultimately, Mary’s journey is like that taken by every Austen heroine. She learns that she can only expect joy when she has accepted who she really is. She must throw off the false expectations and wrong ideas that have combined to obscure her true nature and prevented her from what makes her happy. Only when she undergoes this evolution does she have a chance at finding fulfillment; only then does she have the clarity to recognize her partner when he presents himself—and only at that moment is she genuinely worthy of love.
Mary’s destiny diverges from that of her sisters. It does not involve broad acres or landed gentry. But it does include a man; and, as in all Austen novels, Mary must decide whether he is the truly the one for her. In The Other Bennet Sister, Mary is a fully rounded character—complex, conflicted, and often uncertain; but also vulnerable, supremely sympathetic, and ultimately the protagonist of an uncommonly satisfying debut novel.
Janice Hadlow has worked at the BBC for 28 years, including more than 10 years as a top executive. She was educated at comprehensive school in Swanley, in north Kent, and graduated with a BA in history from King’s College London. She currently lives in Bath. A Royal Experiment is her first book.
There have been numberless revisits, of course, to Pride & Prejudice but so many are sunny romances: this, like Jo Baker's 'Longbourn' takes a welcome critical look at that well-loved classic and at the characters within it. Focusing on Mary, the leftover Bennet who we love to mock, this redraws the whole family, including Jane and Lizzy, and also makes us ashamed of our complicity in sidelining Mary - however pious and dull, it's a terrible thing for a girl to feel unloved and unwanted in her own family. Hadlow doesn't overdo things so this never becomes a kind of Bennet misery-memoir, but it does offer a new perspective on well-known events.
The first third has too much P&P for my taste: Hadlow cut-and-pastes great swathes of the original which I found myself skimming - it's only after that point that this starts to take on a new life of its own. There are new instances of 'pride' and 'prejudice', of sense vs sensibility, and Mary comes into her own - even facing a dilemma lifted from 'Emma' with aplomb. I'd say that some of the character development is too fast and implausible: Mary goes from being repressed and lacking in self-respect to charmingly forthright and bold in the snap of a finger, for example.
All the same, this re-opens the original with one eye on our present (of course) and deals with issues of self-worth in a light way. It's worth pushing on through the repetitive first third, the interlude that takes us to 50% as then the book takes on a life of its own.
The Bennet sister who does not receive much attention is Mary, always distanced by her parents and sisters. Ms Hadlow gives her a voice and a chance denied by Jane Austen. The book is a pleasure to read for those who love Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility and both novels are in a way reflected in Mary Bennet's story. The story is somehow predictable but it does not deprive a reader of the pleasure of observing Mary's pursuit of her own happiness. I listened to an audiobook and the narration by Kristin Atherton is marvellous.
The Other Bennet Sister is a transformative story told through the eyes of one of Pride and Prejudices most maligned characters. I am always hesitant to read a Pride and Prejudice sequel or retelling. I love Jane Austen and her books and can find fault with all the many attempts that try to take up the mantel of her characters. The Other Bennet Sister is therefore a surprising delight. The first part of the novel is a retelling of the events in Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of Mary, the middle Bennet sister. Alternately ignored or laughed at by her sisters and father; and constantly abused by her mother for her failure to be more like her sisters, Hadlow changes this one-dimensional character into one who elicits our sympathy and creates our hopes for her success. Hadlow doesn’t just re-create the scenes from the novel but enhances them through the sensibilities and actions of Austen’s minor characters.
The second part of the novel begins after the marriages of Jane, Lizzy and the other sisters. Mr. Bennett has died and Mary, alone of the sisters, finds herself without a home or money of her own. Adrift and looking for a place to settle, Mary is shifted from Jane’s house to Lizzy’s, feeling unwanted in both places. See receives an invitation to visit Charlotte Collins who, along with the infamous Mr. Collins, has settled in at Mary’s old home. Mary begins to feel sympathy for the oft maligned Mr. Collins and the two begin a friendship that soon provokes the jealousy of Charlotte, leading to Mary once again being set adrift.
In the third part of this story, Mary settles in at her Aunt Gardiner’s house in London. Finally finding a home with people who truly love and value her, Mary begins to change. Gaining confidence and self-worth, she soon attracts the attentions of two suitors who vie for her affections. In one of the novels most satisfying scenes, Caroline Bingley finally gets her comeuppance at the hands of Mary Bennet.
This is a fantastic re-telling of a classic novel and its characters, reforming our view of Mary Bennet, and elevating her into a heroine in her own right. Mary’s emergence into a woman of intelligence and self-assuredness is delightful to read. Hadlow maintains the style and feel of the period, creating a wonderful sense of time and place. My reading of Pride and Prejudice will be forever transformed after reading this novel. A must for fans of Jane Austen, as well as for those who love novels that feature strong intelligent heroines of any periods
Thank you to Henry Holt and Company as well as NetGalley for the e-ARC.
Thoughtful, introspective and slow-paced story of the middle Bennet sister, Mary, who’s studious and priggish in Pride and Prejudice. She’s a lot more nuanced and complex in this novel, which begins some time before P&P and ends a few years after.
With some help from Mrs Gardiner and others, Mary begins to find herself and develop self-confidence, and possibly find some romance along the way. Her time staying at Longbourne with Mr Collins and his wife Charlotte was one of the more intriguing interludes in this novel.
It’s interesting, reasonably well-written, and pretty true to the Regency era, but slow-moving. It has some amusing callbacks to the original story. Recommended mostly for Jane Austen fans who want to revisit that world.
I was overjoyed when I saw this book at my local bookshop as I loved the idea of Mary’s story put to the page. It seemed so promising. And it was at first.
Then it turned into Pride and Prejudice 2.0 (Mary’s POV), until Part Two where it jolts two years into the future. I remained hopeful it would not be too fanfic-y.
The latter half of Part 3 and onwards saw an intelligent, burdened, lonely story turn into too much a RomCom for me. Mary gets a makeover! Mary falls in love! It was just waaaayyy too cheesy and unoriginal for my tastes. I found the character development jarringly sudden and not much earned, and I was never convinced by the relationship with Mr Hayward. I appreciate the new perspective on Mr Collins, but disliked the rather unnecessary turn of Charlotte Lucas into a vindictive, selfish woman. And with as much page-time as Caroline Bingley gets, I’d hope to get a more rounded view of her rather than to just have her be a Mean Girl.
There are also not one but FIVE very indiscreet nods to Pride and Prejudice (some of these direct citations) that takes you completely out of the story because they’re so obvious (yes, I’m looking at you, Lizzie-complaining-about-the-characters-in-her-book-not-seeing-they’re-a-perfect-match).
Sad to say (because I had such high hopes for this one), but it’s gonna have to be a no from me, fam.
In my opinion, Mary Bennet has always been somewhat of a question mark. Who is she? What does she dream of? And where is she going after the ending of Pride and Prejudice? Austen left Mary's story wide open for interpretation - and Hadlow is a great interpreter. Her story seems plausible as well as relatable. She develops a Mary, that you sympathize with and want the best for. And she adds a layer of cruelty to Mrs. Bennet that I found very credible.
👍 What I Liked 👍
Mary: Mary is not a particularly likable character in Pride and Prejudice. As her young sisters, she is portrayed as slightly ridiculous. She is too studious and socially awkward. This book, however, does much to rectify Mary in my opinion. We here get a plausible explanation for her behavior and shows her as a vulnerable, self-concoius woman who lacks support from her family and faith in herself. This is attributed to her mother's bullying and her father's indifference, which was something I found very credible.
Charlotte: Something I had never considered was a friendship between Charlotte and Mary - but it makes total sense! They are both on the outside of society, Charlotte for being an old maid and Mary for being the socially awkward middle sister surrounded by more attractive and lively siblings. Here, we see how the two of them formed a friendship of sorts, with Charlotte acting as a kind of mentor to Mary. That was an aspect that I very much enjoyed and didn't anticipate.
Reunion: We get to revisit so many great characters, Jane and Bingley, Lizzie and Darcy, Collins and Charlotte, the Gardiners and many more. It really felt like a kind of reunion!
👎 What I Disliked 👎
Pace: For me, the pace was too slow. I understood why the author included as much as she did, but I still felt like the same sentiment, emotions and evolution could have been achieved faster. There were too many surplus scenes.
I don't really know how to describe how much I loved this.
The Other Bennet Sister is a clear window into Pride and Prejudice and it's beloved cast of characters. But instead of Lizzie, this time we follow the other (rather forgotten) Bennet sister, Mary.
In the classic original story, Mary is easy to make fun of. She's somber, plain, slouches away from others, cheerlessly pious, lacks charm and any liveliness that her sisters all seem to possess. But I never stopped to consider why Mary was this way since she was mostly used as another strike against the beloved Lizzie. Janice Hadlow brings Mary to life in a way that made me feel shameful for writing her off previously. As much as I love Lizzie and feel close to her when I read the original, Hadlow's Mary is an utterly relatable inspiration.
Consider this. Mary grows up in a house with a mother who admires beauty above all. Some wit is respected if paired with charm. To lack beauty in her eyes, and to possess no charm, is the ultimate diss to Mrs. Bennet. Mary, once close with her two older sisters as a child, pulls herself away from them once she realizes how her Mother (and in her mind, the world) sees her. Her father respects intellect, but loves to tease in an often mean-spirited manner. Plus he already has a favorite in Lizzie. Mary, is alone. Her only ally seems to be Mrs. Hill. All of this only encourages a once happy child to ostracize herself as a young woman, and to lose any sense of self worth she may have once had. But of course, there is more to Mary.
The book starts with a little of Mary's childhood and brings her pain into focus. As it continues into the period of P&P that we're familiar with, it's painful to see Mary's loneliness. Her passion for knowledge and reading is what keeps her sane. I think some readers may feel antsy during this portion of the story because we're all so familiar with it, but to see it through Mary's eyes is unique. It's once Mary leaves Longbourn that the story breaks away from the original, and it's a delight.
Mary's journey is gradual with many pitfalls and moments of reflection. But it's utterly page-turning. Her growth isn't straight forward, and there were moments I wanted to throw some water on her - but that's the beauty of it. Hadlow's writing is clever. She adds depth to other familiar characters in a way that feels like a true continuation of the original story with lush insight. Hadlow has the utmost respect for Jane Austen. Like Austen's books, The Other Bennet Sister isn't simply a romance. Hadlow has written a lesson on hope and happiness for the modern audience. It's an excellent elevation of the original story that begs us to reconsider a previously pushed aside heroine.
I'm delighted to say I will never look at Mary the same way again.
Janice Hadlow's version of Mary Bennet struck me as a Georgian era version of today's "I'm not like other girls" girl. Mary Bennet has already been the subject of many sequels and re-tellings (there is a great article on her character called There’s Something About Mary Bennet) but I don't think that Hadlow's vision of her is particularly compelling or improving. In The Other Bennet Sister Mary is painted as the overlooked underdog (which fair enough, Hadlow wanted to give a reason why Mary seems so unappealing in Pride and Prejudice) who is constantly overshadowed by her sisters. The problem is...Mary is so self-pitying as to be completely unsympathetic. The first few chapters tell painfully slow and dull accounts of all the ways in which Mary has been mistreated by her family. She is plain, not very charming, and so unbearably sanctimonious. She actually believes that she is better than her sisters and is incredibly dismissive of their personalities, hobbies, and observations. Which...yeah, being bitter is fine but why be such a solipsistic whiner? Mary is constantly playing her own violin.
I've only read half of this book and so far the story is a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice from Mary's perspective. Her life isn't that all exciting: she tries some glasses on, she buys a pretty dress, and she tries some makeup. There were painfully detailed descriptions of the most basic of things. Which might have been vaguely appealing if Mary wasn't such a downer. At one point I wouldn't have been surprised if she'd broken into a 'conceal don't feel' type of song. The other characters are rather different from their source material. Charlotte is turned into a rather vindictive person...which didn't really resonate with me. Credit where credit's due: Hadlow does render the historical setting of her story and her language does occasionally echo that of Jane Austen herself.
What can I say? I liked the idea of this book and I love the cover...but the actual contents aren't my cup of tea. Maybe it gets better, maybe Mary changes...but life is short and if I read one more line on 'poor Mary' I might loose it...
Oh, how I wanted to love this— I’ve always secretly felt for the under appreciated sister. If this had been set after Pride and Prejudice, I’m fairly certain boredom would not have set in.
What I didn’t want to read was “Pride and Prejudice” through the eyes of an unloved sister. If I wanted that, I would have read the original for the fifth or sixth time again!
Sad. So sad. Must move on.
PS— I’m pretty sure I know the ending, but I returned it without reading the last few chapters so please message me with the ending... pretty please... with ribbons and dried posies on top... otherwise I’ll need to borrow it again!!
Mary Bennet, the middle sister, possesses neither beauty not charm shared by her sisters. The ugly duckling becomes the subject of many conversations. She finds consolation in music as she has no talent for drawing or painting and no patience for needlework. To stretch her intellect, Mary asks her mother to hire a governess, which is met with bleak enthusiasm. She is directed to Mr. Bennet’s library to read to her heart’s content. To her surprise the first book she picks is written by a woman. To her disappointment, that’s the only book in her father’s library written by a woman. Nevertheless, “she felt the unused muscles of her mind flex and curiosity stir within her.” Normally, she wouldn’t be interested in attending ball, but now she is even excited about it.
My weakness is I have a hard time resisting books associated with Jane Austen. But then the realization hits me that I already know those characters. Even though, Mary is a very interesting character and the writing is superb with wonderful sense of humor, it wasn’t enough for me. I think I’m expecting something new that would surprise me and it doesn’t come.
The story is way too long. It would be much stronger with some parts trimmed.
Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The oft forgotten of the five Bennet sisters who may have been a reader’s source of amusement or irritation, engendered pity or magnanimous sympathy comes endearingly alive in Janice Hadlow’s gentle opus to Mary, the other sister who must follow a very different path to happiness.
The Other Bennet Sister opens when Mary Bennet is a young girl happy and content with herself and her life until slowly she becomes aware of a miserable truth. She’s plain and unattractive. Jane the pretty sister and Lizzy the witty favorite of their father’s pair off as they all get older, her father is entrenched in his library sanctum, and her mother laments Mary’s looks and hurls painful remarks to her and about her. Even her younger sisters take their cue from this to draw together and tease her when they do notice her. Mary searches for ways to please and be noticed though she works hard to avoid her mother who twits her on her looks or quiet manners. In short, Mary is miserable and is willing to try anything even securing the interest of the bumbling and bothersome cousin Collins who has come to Longbourn in search of a wife. If she thought her homelife was misery, being overlooked by Mr. Collins even after she put her best foot forward and made a horrid spectacle of herself at the Netherfield Ball teaches her that being invisible is even worse. Her sisters’ triumphs in being wed, a family death, and feeling at a loss sends Mary on a journey of self-discovery.
The Other Bennet Sister worked hard to be true to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Mary’s childhood and her debut on society along with the story flowing on parallel lines fit hand in glove with the P&P story. It had a broodier Jane Eyre feel to it, but this works since it is Mary’s story. It was intriguing to see that by focusing on Mary the author shows all the familiar characters in a slightly different light. Some even get more of a stronger role like Mrs. Hill the Longbourn housekeeper who has a soft spot for neglected Mary and by Charlotte Lucas who sees Mary as sharing similar personality and needs since they are both plain. I will offer the warning that the usual sparkling favorite characters in Pride & Prejudice to not always appear in a favorable light so be prepared to see a different interpretation to many familiar characters. Wisely, the author doesn’t try to alter who and what Mary is. She took all that quiet, brooding awkwardness and gave us a heroine to which many an introverted bookworm can relate. Mary’s whole life is a journey of discovery and self-discovery and it can be painful to observe at times particularly in the beginning. Mary has little confidence and average looks and skills. She’s rather an Eeyore as a result, but her determination to not shrivel up and die- to find herself and find her place in the world had me seeing this quiet, miserable creature as quite the amazing heroine in her own way. A strong theme in this three-part book is Happiness. In part one, Mary is told by Charlotte Lucas that ‘happiness is a matter of chance’. In part two, Mary is told by a surprising source that ‘happiness is a matter of choice’. But, it is in part three that Mary puts her impressive intellect to the matter and studies out personal happiness by first observing the joyful and fulsome Gardiner household where they made their own happiness and also encounters someone who forces her to open her heart once again. “They did not consider happiness a matter of chance or destiny. Instead they did everything in their power to cultivate it... The result was the happiest home Mary had ever known.” The Other Bennet Sister p. 241 This book is not only a personal journey to discover happiness, but also love. With the first two parts, Mary learns more what romantic love isn’t and feels the sting of longing. It is only in the final section, when she is ready, that the chance for love comes her way. It was a long, stretched out story at this point and I might have even been satisfied to see it end with Mary coming to the Gardiners where she was appreciated just as she was and this caused her to flourish for the first time, but the author gave Mary a heartwarming and sweet friends romance that I was rooting for all the way. Of course it wasn’t easy and she had to make mistakes as well as triumph over a few foes, but that made it worth it.
In summary, this was a lush, full introspective tale of a young woman who found her own way to happiness and love as told in a way that honored Austen’s work while forging its own original, engaging path.
I really liked reading this book. I think Mary is the most likeable character in the Pride and Prejudice household, so I was happy to read a book which focused on her. I found her so easy to relate to. As someone who feels plain and often invisible, she is quiet and bookish and studious. She feels things very deeply, but people don’t seem to notice. Mary seems to self-sabotage herself a bit because of that, but I really could relate to her character on many levels and really liked her.
I also really liked seeing Mary’s character development across the book. She does a lot of internal developing when it comes to self-confidence and seeing the beauty in her own strengths. It was heart-warming to read about. I enjoyed tracking her progress.
I also think the book did a very good job with the setting and time period of the novel. I also spotted many discreet nods to the original classic Pride and Prejudice among the other overt ones, which was nice to see.
I really liked that this wasn’t exactly a retelling of the classic either, but more so a continuation. The events in this novel happen after the end of Pride and Prejudice, which means we get to see what happened to many of the couples that formed at the end of the original classic. I honestly could have thought this was another Austen book if I didn’t know better. That was how good it was with melding to the original classic’s writing style.
I liked the main love interest and all the discussion on poetry and hiking. The romance was sweet. There are two possible love interests, so if that isn’t your cup of tea you have been warned. Miscommunication tended to be their main struggle which was a bit frustrating, but it actually made sense due to the disposition of the character and the time the book was set in.
The one thing I do think this book suffers from is being a bit too long. It is a hefty 658 pages for a slow and steady paced books. It’s not suspenseful because it is more so a character study and development book. I think the beginning, before the love interests really get introduced could have been shortened significantly. But I had enough fun with this one that I didn’t mind too much.
Overall, a very solid read and enjoyable one if you like Austen’s works. Especially Pride and Prejudice, of course!
There are many types of books that I do not particularly care for but the top of the chart is people who write for other people's characters. Yet I still fall for it and then am unhappy with myself. How does another author really know what happened to Scarlett? How can anyone else really write for Robert Parker or Rex Stout? Yet I persist in trying them hoping for the best.
And what characters seem to be rewritten the most? It seems to be Jane Austen for some reason. So here I try it again, this time with Mary Bennett, a somewhat shadowy character. Now I know why. She is boring. She is so boring that a book centered around her is boring. Her insecurities just go on and on from the way she dresses to the way she plays the piano. Does it never end? You just want to pick her up by the shoulders and shake her.
Her best "friend", Charlotte, is a doozy. She stops her dancing with a young gentleman. She deliberately goes after the man Mary has told her she wants. She kicks her out of the house after a visit. Will Mary ever be able to get the knife out of her back? No wonder she is so insecure.
The author does her no favors droning on for 480 pages. This is longer than the original work by 50%. Is there more story to be told. No. Just someone without a good copy editor. Please do us all out of our misery by editing a good 100 pages out of this book. It really needs it.
Thanks to Net Galley for a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.
While P&P allowed us to fall in love with love through Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, this novel chooses instead to focus on plain Mary Bennet, who is somewhat neglected by the original.
The first part is a bland retelling of P&P with the focus this time on Mary and the neglect she suffers from being plain and constantly compared to her more beautiful, livelier sisters. The second part is more like a sequel, where the ongoing happiness of Mary's sisters throws her own misery into the spotlight and dowses any hope we had of feeling the same sort of affection we had for the original by sucking all the joy from previously loved characters and not giving us much to love in the new. Then, finally, as the story reaches part three, Mary begins to experience her own unique story, and we are finally afforded the chance to know her as an individual and witness her own growth.
I found it dreary and tedious to begin with, and I think that's mostly because it's attempting to put a new spin on an old favourite and doesn't quite pull it off. I love the idea of this story focusing on the sister we heard so little about in the original, but this story doesn't do her any immediate favours. Instead, we're forced to experience the events we're already familiar with from a much more depressing viewpoint. Mary is constantly beat down by her mother and thinks so little of herself that it's hard not to get frustrated with her. So while you do originally feel a little sympathy for her, it does get tired quite quickly.
The second part doesn't do much better - we see how life is going for Jane, Elizabeth, Charlotte and their families a couple years after the events of P&P, but Mary is still as dull as ever. There's no joy in the glimpse at an unofficial sequel, because we're too busy being weighed down by Mary's fears and loneliness.
However, by the time we come to part three, we finally have the chance to taste an original story - featuring Mary - and it is here where this story begins to come alive. Without the comparisons and the overbearing mother, Mary is finally allowed to experience her own life, make her own choices, meet her own friends, etc., and it's much more refreshing. It's here, in fact, where it most suffers from its attachment to P&P, because Mary's story from here could easily have been a novel in its own right. I would have much preferred an original story with similarities to this attempt at new object of affection within the confines of a world already known and loved.
There is actually a pretty sweet, meaningful story here about living life on your own terms, the battle of head VS heart, and appreciating the little things in life. There's an interesting divergence from P&P with the way it discusses the constraints of 'polite society' during this period and Mary is a fascinating character in the way she both yearns to express herself yet still maintain her place in a society which has treated her cruelly. But just as you begin to appreciate the story there's an unseemly reference to P&P and you're forced to once again confront the fact that this is not even close to the endearing original. It tries so hard to steal that affection that is has the opposite effect - instead, it just reminds us of all the things we're missing. Towards the end, the direct quotes definitely had me cringing.
Yet, Mary's story on its own was quite enjoyable towards the end, and even though there were far too many inconvenient interruptions for my liking, it held together well enough. It was predictable and painful, certainly, but I really feel that if Mary's story had been written completely detached from the world of Pride and Prejudice I would have enjoyed it far more.
Quite ironic that a book that pushes the message of being true to yourself suffers from trying so hard to be like a much loved original.
I suspect some fans of P&P will love any further foray into the lives of the Bennet family, but for me it didn't quite hold the charm I'd hoped for. I think I'd rather just re-read the original.
Loved it! Perfectly captures the Jane Austen spirit and makes you feel warm and glowing as you read. This book speaks to your SOUL. I missed Mrs Bennet. I wanted more of her. But Mary, oh Mary, she has my heart.
You will love this: - if you love Jane Austen - if you love good books
You will not like this : - If you want the Austen heroines to be out of character and time period and become 21st century heroines.
Hands down. One of my most enjoyable reads this year. Prepare yourself, this will be a gushing review.
"But I think there is another difference between you and I. I have never hidden from you that I am unhappy with my circumstances and planned to do all I could to change them. But it is my situation I dislike, not myself. I'm not sure the same is true of you. It's hard to persuade anyone, especially a man, that your regard is worth having if you have none for yourself" -Charlotte Lucas
Disregard the man liking you part... but this is Charlotte's advice to Mary after the Bennett family learns of Charlotte and Mr Collins' engagement. I love that Hadlow picked up on what I was picking up on the character of Mary while reading P&P. There just seemed like more to Mary's story than her bookish piano playing awkwardness combined with owlishly offering advice that wasn't entirely solicited. (Though I did think she made some accurate points in said advice). The movies make a dislikable caricature of her. This is Mary's story. Told so cleverly and so sweetly that even though I borrowed it from the library; I'll be buying a copy for a reread.
I always wondered at Mary. I saw a girl on sitting on the outside of her family. Her two older sisters were each others' confidants and friends, so tightly connected no one else could penetrate the bond. Her two younger sisters were frivolous and also tightly connected by their shallow love for a good time and officers. Her mother's personality fit in with her younger sisters along with her dotage. Her father tended to be isolating (understandable) and saved his attention for Lizzie. Mary has no one she can confide or relate to. She's socially awkward and resorts to her learning and love of books for comfort. This is what I picked up on P&P... and Janice Hadlow expounds upon that masterfully!
Hadlow takes a character so many either ignore or dislike due to the movie caricature (in my opinion) and she shows us a different side. We get to revisit our beloved characters from P&P- and once again the Gardiners play a large role in a Bennet sister's happiness! The reader gets to see a Mary blossom from a girl with horribly low self esteem to a confidant vibrant woman. Thank you, Janice Hadlow for rescuing Mary and giving her a happily ever after. It was such a treat to read.
4.5 stars. Wow! Ms. Hadlow truly channeled Jane Austen with this one! The turn of phrase, diction, pacing, and characterization was pure Regency. I always felt sorry for Mary and was delighted that she finally got a chance to shine. I thought it was a little long and could have used some trimming, but overall, a delightful read.
A must-read (or listening) for any Jane Austen fan. Not as good as the original 'Pride and Prejudice ', nothing will beat that! Yet, it was an enjoyable story. One of the better re-tellings of a classic.
Janice Hadlow has made a good job to make one notice Mary Bennet, who is so often forgotten. She made Mary as the main character a very interesting part. I love how Hadlow developt Mary's character and made more layers to her.
The book was fun and at times sad. Mary Bennet wasn't always treated kindly. Yet, she grows as a person and learn a lot about herself and relationships with others.
The ending was also so satisfying. Mary deserves her own happy ever after.
In the end, a grest re-telling and can't recommend this enough for any Jane Austen fan out there!
“If I don’t have the genius to create a thing of beauty myself, at least I have the judgement to appreciate the art of others. It is better to accept what I can do, than to yearn hopelessly after what I cannot.”
While watching one of Pride and Prejudice’s adaptation for the screen (the one with Keira Knightley), I realised that Mary, the middle daughter in the Bennet family, had hidden depths and interests. Talulah Riley portrayed her not as a caricature and object to be ridiculed, but as a person with hopes and wants; an introvert in a family of extroverts. It was very subtle - blink and miss it - but it was there! Imagine my curiosity when I found out someone had imagined and written Mary's story! Yes - I had to read it!
Hadlow’s tale can be divided into 3 parts: before P&P, during, and after. I must say I loved seeing this new point of view on beloved, and some not so beloved, characters. The author made me re-evaluate certain aspects to great effects. Mrs Bennet, I’m sorry to say, is even worse, but Mr Collins becomes someone I can understand a little better and feel kinder to (I know, I was surprised too!). And what of Mary?! Well, Hadlow builds upon what Austen gave us, and creates a complex, flawed, and likeable character. She stumbles through life, trying to find her place, trying to understand herself and this world that is so cruel to girls. She makes mistakes, often in an effort to be loved by those around her, but sadly she is met with indifference and malice. How does someone react and grow in this environment?
This is a long book, although I ripped through it in two days, but I agree it would probably have benefited from being a bit shorter. Still, I really enjoyed it.
I don't usually read false sequels but this one was too tempting to resist. As someone who always considers herself as more of a Mary than any other Bennet sister, I am so happy that this was written. I never felt Jane Austen gave Mary any story of her own in Pride & Prejudice and that she looked Mary over more than any other sister. I found this novel to be written beautifully and not so far off from Austen's own writing. The thoughts of Mary are very interesting to read and definitely more melancholy than Elizabeth's in P&P (I definitely teared up a few times while reading this).
Hadlow gives us insights into the other Bennet sisters and the parents that I found nice to see. She highlights different characteristics of the P&P characters and shows us more of character we didn't see much of before. Unfortunately, Kitty still didn't get as much of a story in this; she isn't talked of much in here, unlike the other sisters. I would like a story like this but about Kitty.
Pitch-perfect, this is the best continuation of a Jane Austen novel I have read. The author has captured the tone and spirit of the original, and given new life to one of its most sidelined characters, Mary Bennet. Not only that, but she has also enhanced my understanding of one of the least likeable, Mr. William Collins.
I am glad that I read this book, having initially been wary because of bad experiences with other “Jane-lite” novels, which either repeated her plots in plodding prose, or twisted her characters into unlikely poses. Here I found nothing which jarred on my sensibilities, and found much to savour.
My only quibbles are that I thought the resolution of the plot was unduly protracted and that Mrs Bennet was made to appear as rather more malign than the silly, narrow, and undereducated woman Austen portrays.
Recommended. Very readable and most enjoyable.
Thank you to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for the digital review copy.
Includes both a tl;dr review and a long list of issues I complied as I read it. I also tried for a list of positives, but in the end the two I could come up with ended up not really being true anyway.
TL;DR Basically the book comes down to: everyone is Mean to Mary, who spends 300 pages being Depressed because she is Ugly. She then proceeds to put on a “plain” but “nice” dress and now multiple men want her. The plot is snippets stolen from multiple Austen stories rehashed without originality or creativity, and what isn’t just plucked from Austen is dull, repetitious, and absurd. It’s the story of an unpopular “bookworm” girl surrounded by Mean People. You know that old tired “I’m not like other girls I READ” trope? That’s it. That’s the book. The author completely trashed Austen’s original characters, treats Lizzy (or is it Lizzie, the author spells it both ways) like a selfish, awful person, and even somehow made Mrs. Bennet out to be more ridiculous than the original.
Uninspired to the point of borderline plagiarism in places (examples below), dull, and at *least* 300 pages too long. With grammar and spelling mistakes that surprise me in a book not only published digitally but in print. 0.5 stars. 1/10. Don’t recommend and will NOT slog my way through again.
The long, ranting version, Here there be spoilers!
About 100 pages in and it’s beginning to get a little repetitious. Mary is ignored by her Very Mean Family, Charlotte comes in and drops lots of gloomy doom everywhere, wash rinse repeat.
Mary isn’t growing or changing or forming any new ideas, she’s just getting more and more gloomy and sad and there’s still 370 pages to go
It’s been a while since I’ve read P&P but does Mary NOT push herself forwards immediately rather than letting Miss Bingley go first when it comes to playing/singing at the ball? If the author is going to pretend follow the original so much it seems kind of a cop-out to have Mary suddenly show more restraint than she did in the book Also like… being angry with Lizzy over asking her dad to stop Mary from playing?? Like that’s a valid reaction out of hurt but honestly Mary WAS being rude in expecting to play so many songs in a row?? And she was making a spectacle of herself.
Idk I’m not a fan of the author turning so many of Lizzy’s actions into bad/cruel ones just to make Mary more sympathetic.
I’d say poor Mr. Bennet but honestly he’s lucky to have died and gotten out of this story.
Caroline picking on Mary is just so… absurd. Just yet again, another “everyone is so mean to poor Mary uwu”. Like Caroline was catty but her being this level of vindictive b**** is just dumb.
Literally the first 2/3 of this book is “everyone hates/dislikes Mary for literally no reason”.
Aaaaaand now she’s made Charlotte jealous because she’s hanging out with Mr. Collins. My eyes rolled so hard I briefly saw my brain.
The author also straight up steals dialogue from the miniseries adaption, including this: “Did I tell you of Lady Metcalfe’s calling yesterday to thank me? She finds Miss Pope a treasure. ‘Lady Catherine,’ she said, ‘you have given me such a treasure.’…”
Actually the author steals a lot of things directly from either P&P the book, the television adaption, or even from S&S, including:
Towards the end of the book, post-Mr. Ryder being refused, Caroline literally becomes the next Lady Catherine, storming in with “did he make you an offer of marriage?!” It’s nearly the exact same scene, right down to Mary saying “you have insulted me and my family in every possible way. There is really nothing more to be said between us.” Caroline also wrote Tom a letter (??????) that basically had the same effect as Lady Catherine telling Darcy that Lizzy had been stubborn about refusing to say she wouldn’t marry him. The story of how Mr. Ryder becomes even more wealthy is almost verbatim plucked from S&S with the character names changed (Mrs. F disowning EF because he’s going to marry LS in S&S; LC disowning her daughter because she’s going to marry her doctor. Mrs. F bestows the family wealth on her other son in revenge; LC bestows it on Mr. Ryder who is…. Somehow… related….?? in revenge) Tom’s line of “…if I had loved you less, I might have ventured more.” Taken from Mr. Knightley’s line in Emma.
Like, presumably the people who read this book are Austen fans, did she think no one would notice that she stole all of this??
Mary keeps making choices that deliberately and directly spoil a chance at happiness over nonsensical reasons (like not accepting the money from Lizzy even tho she literally can’t afford to dress for London otherwise, and Lizzy really wants to help Mary be happy, or not talking to Tom and then being angry because HE doesn’t talk either).
Mary DELIBERATELY DRESSES PLAIN AND DOWDY and yet asks “do people really perceive me as being dull and ugly” yes because your every mood and action makes you come across as dull and ugly this is YOUR fault at this point Mary.
After years of being too awkward to talk to anybody she’s somehow perfectly comfortable in conversation with someone. This book is literally just every “ugly duckling” story where the bookish nerd girl puts on a pretty dress and suddenly every man desires her and she finds the confidence to talk to him that she didn’t have while wearing her Ugly Clothes.
“It’s going to be hard to be happy after being (deliberately) miserable for so long,” says Mary. And then it wasn’t difficult at all. She’s having (private) lively discussions with a MAN with no effort and tons of boldness like 24 hours later.
Oh now we’ve been introduced to the cad of the story, Mr. Ryder, who is *gasp* related to Lady Catherine! And currently is desired by Ms. Bingley! Why does that sound familiar… oh! It’s Mr. Darcy except not the hero. Is there literally nothing original in this book?? (Hint: no, there isn’t.)
I don’t really like to use the term “Mary Sue” but at this point that’s what Mary is, in all the worst ways.
And now Caroline is offering unwanted advice. Why is half this hook just women whose names being with C offering Mary unsolicited and either mean-spirited or bitter advice about getting married or not getting married.
Also what was the point of setting up the guy who was going to become a doctor at all if he just never shows up again like what purpose did he serve except to be one of THREE MEN who fell in love with Mary for no discernible reason.
“You realize [….] novels are designed to entertain? They are not as task to be endured, but a pleasure to be enjoyed. If you do not like then, why do you continue with them?” The question I keep asking myself as I trudge through this terrible book.
Also if they don’t stop using the word “bloom/blooming” to describe Mary I’m going to stab someone.
Wow. Tom is just going to quit the field just like that, all because Mary had a nice walk with Mr. Ryder huh? In spite of Mary’s supposedly “very obvious” affection for him? What a spineless and bland “hero” he is. Although admittedly perfect for our bland and cardboard “heroine”.
The drama is so contrived it’s painful. Like it’s really stupid levels of bad.
“She had not invited his friend’s attentions” uh yeah you have and your aunt has been warning you about it this whole time And again, severs pages later: “It is very unfair,” she cried. “I did not invite Mr. Ryder’s attentions. I did nothing to encourage them.” Girl you kept inviting him over and literally giving him your attention. You kept inviting him to deliberately spite Caroline Bingely because you refused to “surrender the field” to her. You went out in public with him, ALONE, for ices. You 300% encouraged this.
“Anger was an unfamiliar emotion for Mary. In the past, she had not felt entitled to give way to anything so assertive.” Ah yes, meek little dormouse Mary who’s never even had the guts to be angry before. Except when she got angry at Lizzy for no good reason. “She had always assumed the blame for any fault” WHERE?? Literally the whole book makes everything that happens out to be the fault of anyone BUT Mary. Like the above where she swears she wasn’t encouraging Mr. Ryder’s affections when she in fact was.
“You are a woman, which, as you grow older, you are likely to discover puts you only slightly above the condition of an infant in the eyes of most of the world.” I can’t believe this line came out of a book inspired by Austen’s works. I really cannot.
More sulking and being sad again. 75% of this book is her sulking and being sad.
Oh hey it’s the fake love interest from 300+ pages ago. “I did not injure him so badly that he could not recover his spirit” for someone who supposedly hated herself Mary thinks very highly of her own ability to ruin forever the happiness of a guy who she refused to dance with a third time.
Tom comes back and Mary decides to Take Charge and now everything is fixed. I wish I cared AT ALL.
Oh and I’m supposed to buy that Caroline would run off and be Mr. Ryder’s mistress, huh? Sure, Jan. Caroline is a lot of things but she’s not so desperate that she would elope to be some rich guy’s mistress, come on.
Also they keep switching from Lizzy to Lizzie so like who was the editor here.
It’s over thank GOD.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
An Intimate and Sympathetic Journey with Mary Bennet
TYPE OF NOVEL: Secondary Character story about Mary Bennet, Alternate Point-of-View/Sequel
TIME FRAME: Begins before the events of P&P and jumps ahead two years after the Netherfield Ball
SYNOPSIS: Mary Bennet, plain, awkward, and not rich, with a painful childhood and sober disposition, seemed unlikely to ever achieve the success and happiness in life that blessed her fortunate sisters. From an early age, Mary learned that she is not like them. And with her elder sisters and younger sisters dividing into close and confiding pairs that excluded her company, Mary soon accustomed herself to always being unhappy and alone. But as each sister departs to be happily wed and the life she knows at Longbourn begins to change, Mary learns she must find her own way… What does the future have in store for this serious, studious, and neglected Bennet sister?
WHAT I LOVED:
- Perceptive, Rational, and Earnest: Rather than portray Mary as pious or priggish, Ms. Hadlow instead depicts Mary as a perceptive observer who is trying to figure out life – what is the correct way to live? what should be her guide? I loved how thoughtful and sensible Mary is, Ms. Hadlow repeatedly used the word rational to describe Mary’s thoughts and actions. Lastly, I loved how Mary was sincere in all her endeavors and in active pursuit of learning or improving herself. This Mary has so many qualities that I can identify with and many others that I admire.
- Mary and Charlotte Dynamic: I quite enjoyed the side scenes that show some candid conversations between Mary and Charlotte during P&P. They felt so plausible. Even though Lizzy is Charlotte’s dear friend, it makes perfect sense that she would recognize some similarities between herself and Mary and share some unsolicited advice – from one plain maiden with no prospects to another. This was such an interesting dynamic to explore between these characters, and I especially enjoyed the development of their relationship later on in the novel.
- The People in Mary’s Life: This book is all about Mary and her relationships with others. I really enjoyed the way Ms. Hadlow thoughtfully developed and plausibly portrayed these relationships. Especially with Elizabeth, Mr. Bennet, Mr. Collins, and Caroline Bingley (I know, this last one is a surprise!) There was something new to discover between each relationship. However, my three favorite people in Mary’s life would be Mrs. Hill, Mrs. Gardiner and Tom Hayward.
- Mary Bennet, Couch-Surfer: This is a cheeky way of me saying that I enjoyed seeing Mary visit several homes of her relations and make observations about them and their lives. Like Elizabeth, Mary is an avid study of human character and human relationships. But of the two, she may be the more adept and accurate observer. I loved seeing all that Mary learned about others, it definitely helped influence her thoughts, beliefs, and desires.
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- Pacing and Length: This is a very comprehensive book full of narrative. And with a sober heroine who spends a lot of time in quiet contemplation, it sometimes felt a little slow and heavy. While a more serious and introspective story is suiting for dear Mary, it probably could have been trimmed down a good bit in some places.
- So Much To Be Sad About: The first part of this book comprises of events before and during Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – a lot of these moments are filled with painful recollections and scenes of neglect, heartache, and loneliness. And with the second part continuing with some more mistreatment and despair, it did make the first half of the book feel a little bleak and again, heavy. Maybe reducing some of the earlier sections or selecting certain scenes as flashbacks would have helped balance emotions a little.
While the beginning was filled with heartache and pain, the journey Janice Hadlow takes readers on is a rewarding and satisfying experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the last two sections of the book where we witness Mary’s self-discovery, growth, repeated examples of strength, acceptance, and finally, her success in achieving perfect happiness. With The Other Bennet Sister, Janice Hadlow displays her keen insight and sensitive understanding of the Bennet’s middle daughter. I loved this sympathetic and intimate tale about one of my favorite secondary characters!
I'm torn because as many reviewers point out—this is very well-developed Pride and Prejudice fanfiction. Mary Bennet emerges as a heroine in her own right with complex emotions and character growth with only a moderate amount of almost-direct-P&P-quotes-placed-in-the-wrong-person's-mouth to annoy the discriminating reader. But good heavens, it is so slow. I have no idea why this book tops nearly 500 pages and well over 80 chapters. Mary and her morbid meanderings, descent into romanticism, and eventual leveling out was bad enough. But throw in additional reflections about Mr. Collins and why it is so important to marry someone you respect and you have a heavy, pedantic book. A book that is, nevertheless, still a decent read. I didn't really enjoy it. It was too angsty. But I must credit it for being a story that lived in the shadow Pride and Prejudice without succumbing too much to it. It fleshes out the Mary we meet in P&P. While her ensuring journey is not the one I would have sent her on, I think it still stayed true to Austen and the Regency era while also providing some interesting themes about love and marriage to chew on.
Not one I will return to any time soon, but I appreciate what it does now that I've finished. If you're in the middle of it and wondering if things will pick up, the answer is...not really. But it is pretty consistent for all its slow pace.
SO GOOD. Hadlow manages the (impossible?) task of capturing Austen's wit and warmth with a slightly anachronistic introspection that really lends itself to the story - even the Austen purists will be impressed! She borrows plot points from other works, Emma in particular, to give a thread of authenticity, but otherwise the story is Hadlow's own creation.
The first part (which takes up roughly 1/3 of the novel) covers the events in Pride and Prejudice from Mary's perspective and Hadlow wastes no time in reading between the lines to create a compassionate, heartbreaking portrait of Mary. Raised in a household of exceptionally beautiful sisters to a mother who prides beauty above all else, the comparatively plain Mary's spirits are crushed early on by Mrs Bennet's verbally abusive treatment of her and a father whose quick-witted, amused character has become neglectful, even mean-spirited in his humour, by marrying a woman he doesn't respect. There are echoes of Anne Elliot in Persuasion; lacking the warmth of love and companionship (her four sisters pair up with each other - Jane and Lizzy, Kitty and Lydia - leaving Mary isolated), she turns to books and intellectual study to fill the gap in the knowledge such fellow-feeling could bring. Where she might have found a friend in her father, Mr Bennet's affections are reserved only for Lizzy and he has grown too closed off to welcome another.
She heard the unmistakable sound of Lizzy at the piano. She would have known her style anywhere - fast, full of bravado, so appealing that it was impossible not to turn your head and listen. The few mistakes she made did nothing to mar the pleasure of hearing her. 'That was very good, Lizzy,' she exclaimed. 'There were hardly any false notes. If you were to practise properly, you might really master it.' 'That wouldn't suit me at all. I'm not sure I have the patience to master anything. The minute it began to be troublesome, I'd find something else to do.' 'But don't you want to cultivate your gift? It seems a great shame to waste it.' 'I'm not sure it's wasted if it pleases me.' Lizzy allowed her fingers to trace a simple scale. 'I sometimes wonder if you might enjoy yourself more if you applied yourself a little less.' 'But if I don't apply myself, how will I play anything correctly?' 'Perhaps,' remarked Lizzy, 'correctness and application are not the only measures of success.'
The second part of the novel is set two years after the events of Pride and Prejudice. Mr Bennet has passed away and Mary lives an unstable existence, moving from the Bingley's household, to the Darcy's at Pemberley and then onto Longbourn to stay with the Collins'. This is where the novel really comes into its own; once liberated from the canonical text, Hadlow's conversations are full of wit, revelation and AMAZING character development. It's what makes the book such a success; Hadlow's dialogue is impeccable (you could readily find it in any Austen novel) and the way she fleshes out Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins is so masterfully done, you won't be able to see them in quite the same way again.
Events then transpire that then take Mary to the Gardiner's in London, where she flourishes in the kindness and love she is offered there, uncovering a passionate woman beneath, reminiscent of Jane Eyre.
'I only hope there is some way I can repay your kindness,' Mary replied. 'I know I am not as amusing as Lizzy nor as useful as Jane, but there must be something I could do to assist you.' Abruptly, Mrs Gardiner stopped what she was doing and looked up from her sorting. 'Mary, I do hate to hear you speak in that way. It makes me so very sad. We would not have asked you to remain here if we did not find your presence agreeable...please, let us hear no more disobliging criticisms of your own character. The only condition I shall apply to you in staying with us is that you try to speak more kindly of yourself.'
It is while she is transforming into a more confident version of herself (quite literally - she is in a store purchasing new garments) that she meets the sharp and witty character of Mr Hayward, a lawyer who "was not particularly handsome, but his expression was so affable and amused that by the time this was noticed, it was too late for it to matter." What ensues - especially the conversations! - are as lively as any Austen creation and it is an unputdownable pleasure, the friendship between them drawing Mary's emotional nature out.
'It seems to me,' he went on, 'that in the real world, it is impossible to be guided solely by either the impulses of feeling or by rational calculation. Neither is likely to make us happy. In my own view, we have need of them both. Wisdom, I suppose, lies in knowing when to call upon one and when on the other.' 'I think you will always find that easier to achieve than I do,' answered Mary. 'You are accustomed to expressing your feelings. You have exercised them with poetry until they are robust and familiar to you. Mine, I often think, are feeble, frozen and largely unknown to me.' Finally Mr Hayward smiled at her. 'No one who has spoken with the passion you have shown so freely this afternoon can possibly be a stranger to strong emotions.' Mary was suddenly mortified by the candour with which she had spoken. 'I have said far too much,' she cried. 'I am so sorry - I was carried away. I cannot believe I have been so forward!' 'That is not how I regard it at all,' said Mr Hayward, soothingly. 'I intend to do all I can to help you become a woman of feeling. I shall unlock the sentiment buried beneath all that good sense. See if I do not.'
What follows is a story that fans of Austen will be delighted by, with a heroine - misunderstood and overlooked in Pride and Prejudice - who you can't help but hope gets her happy ending.
You can really feel Hadlow's adoration of Pride and Prejudice in every page of this novel and it's clear she's spent a lot of time meditating on how the characters we know and love would believably behave; everything that happens feels realistic, familiar and yet refreshingly new. Hadlow is also a master of the double entendre, (one of my favourite literary devices), and maintains the trademark tension supplied by social etiquette that Austen so wonderfully evokes in all of her books. I can already tell I'm going to re-read this many times in years to come.