Review: The Independence of Mary Bennet

There have been many spin-off books from Pride and Prejudice with its five famous Bennet sisters. From the hilarious Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to the darker Death at Pemberly.

Belying the cover art of this book is a darker, earthier and more pragmatic view and story of the Bennet sisters twenty years after Pride and Prejudice. The author, mostly known for writing ‘Thorn Birds’ has written in a style quite different from the lighter and amusing Jane Austin.

The Bennet sisters are middle-aged and the story starts with Mrs Bennet dying off and Mary Bennet her spinster carer suddenly being set free of her family. Like many imprisoned people, they go wild at their first taste of freedom and Mary who has changed from the ridiculous, pious, attention-seeking and forgotten middle teenage sister from Pride and Prejudice days ignores offers of marriage and makes a plan to go travelling and write a book about the plight of England’s poor, fuelled by reading the anarchist letters published in a political journal. Her journey of course is full of challenges.

Meanwhile Jane has become a baby producing machine with a horde of children and her husband the lovable and naïve Charles is now a slave owner with Plantations in the Caribbean and a mistress there. Elizabeth and Darcy, the big love story in Pride and Prejudice have a marriage breakdown and are living separate lives with Darcy reverting to his proud, controlling and overbearing self and Elizabeth turning into a mouse. Kitty did well for herself, while Lydia’s life has gone downhill and she’s an alcoholic nymphomaniac.

At times the author’s descriptions are quite graphic and doesn’t actually add value to the story. Sometimes less description adds more reader enjoyability, allowing the reader to connect the dots for themselves.

Overall the book is an ok read. Not amazing, not bad, just ok.

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