For fans of Pride & Prejudice, for those who enjoy the slower Victorian kind of story, for an expansion on familiar characters
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.
This has the same slow deep language as the original it emulates, and is a fitting addition to their world. I was very impressed with the phrasing and style that’s so closely mimicked Jane Austen’s own. There were some scenes and quotations that are recognizable from Pride and Prejudice, although I can’t confirm if conversations are identical to what we originally knew. Even if they are not exact, they are believable and the characters maintained their personalities and integrity.
They are given their own new depths of life, though. Seeing characters like Lizzy and Charlotte through Mary’s eyes is revealing of aspects of their character not included in the original. Many of the side characters are more thoroughly investigated since Mary sees herself as a side character anyway.
The story does continue in years after where P&P ended, so some of it is wholly original. Some people may end up hating that, but I found it quite fascinating to see Hadlow build them in a believable way.
It’s inevitably tedious at times to listen to a character hate on herself constantly. Likewise with listening to all the diatribes on society and customs, or the detailed philosophical debates and musings. It’s around the halfway mark when the story shifts a bit, not necessarily in Mary’s view of herself but in pacing and the kind of events.
Overall this was a very slow languorous read, though not an unpleasant one. It was simply not a book I rushed through, and instead enjoyed the words used and the characters written. This is a good one to enjoy slowly over a long rainy weekend.
Thanks to Goodreads and Henry Holt & Co. for a free copy from Goodreads in exchange for a review!