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I found this novel at the airport – heading home from a girls weekend away – and had to buy it despite my plan of only buying digital books from now on.

Here is the blurb …

 ‘No two views of a ball will be exactly alike. So many separate little worlds make up the whole (most of them whirling mindlessly about), and my own view of that Meryton assembly cannot help but be different from that of my sisters. For the first part of the evening, I was a mere onlooker—unmoving and unmoved. Nobody turned my head with compliments. Nobody asked me to dance.’

What if Pride and Prejudice were to be retold from the viewpoint of Elizabeth Bennet’s younger sister, Mary, the ‘odd one out’ of the Bennet family?

This is what playwright, author, and Jane Austen Society of Australia member, Jennifer Paynter, asked herself before writing Mary Bennet – the plot of which eventually transports the heroine all the way from Hertfordshire to Macquarie’s New South Wales.

The familiar and much-loved characters of Pride and Prejudice appear in Mary Bennet – though they may be a little altered when seen through Mary’s eyes. From her post in the wings of the Bennet family, Mary is well-placed to observe Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy, for instance, but while she is able to view him quite dispassionately (and as it turns out, accurately) Mary may not be quite so clear-sighted when she finally falls in love herself.

Mary Bennet is the story of a young girl, desperate for attention and approval, who at last learns to question her family’s values and to overcome her own brand of ‘pride and prejudice’.

The novel covers time before, during and after the action of Pride and Prejudice. The way this novel fits in with Pride and Prejudice is very clever – Ms Paynter even manages to make Mary sympathetic. All those pompous statements, like …

 “Unhappy as the event must be for Lydia, we may draw from it this useful lesson: that loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.”

don’t seem so silly when you have Mary’s point of view. Some of the minor characters from Pride and Prejudice are fleshed out – Mrs Long’s nieces for instance – and extra characters added.  Although the style isn’t the same as Austen’s, it is well written and didn’t have any of those anachronistic moments, which remind you that you are reading a modern regency novel. This novel is different form the current spate of re-interpretations, re-tellings etc, in that it is more than just a romance – there is romance, but there is social commentary as well.

Other reviews …

http://readinginthebath.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/mary-bennet-jennifer-paynter/

http://thebennetsisters.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/book-review-and-qa-mary-bennet-by-jennifer-paynter/

 

 

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