Historical Fiction, Romance

Review: Mary B: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice by Katherine J. Chen

My review is of Mary B: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice, a retelling of the original story from Mary Bennett's perspective.

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I love Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was one of the first classic novels I had ever read and I thought it was so witty and lovely. I love rereading it, and watching movie adaptations of it, so of course when I heard about this book, I knew I had to give it a go!

Mary B: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice book cover book cover

Mary B: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice

by Katherine J. Chen

Published May 24, 2018 by Random House
ISBN: 0399592210

Data from Goodreads

Summary (Goodreads): What is to be done with Mary Bennet? She possesses neither the beauty of her eldest sister, Jane, nor the high-spirited charm of Lizzy. Even compared to her frivolous younger siblings, Kitty and Lydia, Mary knows she is lacking in the ways that matter for single, not-so-well-to-do women in nineteenth-century England who must secure their futures through the finding of a husband. As her sisters wed, one by one, Mary pictures herself growing old, a spinster with no estate to run or children to mind, dependent on the charity of others. At least she has the silent rebellion and secret pleasures of reading and writing to keep her company.

But even her fictional creations are no match for the scandal, tragedy, and romance that eventually visit Mary’s own life. In Mary B, readers are transported beyond the center of the ballroom to discover that wallflowers are sometimes the most intriguing guests at the party. Beneath Mary’s plain appearance and bookish demeanor simmers an inner life brimming with passion, humor, and imagination–and a voice that demands to be heard.

My Review

If I’m honest, one of the reasons I was so intrigued by this novel was because I actually could not remember Mary’s character. I knew she was one of the Bennet sisters but she had such a minor role in the story that I had completely passed over her. I was so intrigued by how the author would shape her personality and show how she was affected by the marriages of her sisters.

The Pros: What worked for me

  • The author really made an effort to have the story start off from where Pride and Prejudice began. I really liked that the story went beyond the events of the original novel and into a future that readers had always speculated about. I also appreciated the effort taken to maintain the same language used in the original novel.
  • There were quite a lot of mentions about how plain Mary was in terms of her looks and behaviour. Usually, I am not a fan of repetitive themes but it worked well in the story because it reinforced the idea of why people never really gave Mary a proper shot.

The Cons: What I didn’t like

  • There were quite a few technical discrepancies between this story and the original, enough to affect the quality of the story.
  • I also didn’t think that any of Mary’s romantic ventures were developed properly. There was a lack of elevation to it, making it seem very cheap and cringy. She may not have been the most beautiful or poised Bennet sister, but that doesn’t mean that her romance should be any less.
  • I was also very disappointed in the way other characters in the book were portrayed. Both Colonel Fitzwilliam and Lizzie Bennet were described in this novel quite differently and I don’t think it was a change I particularly liked. It didn’t help that Lizzie has always been one of my favourite characters;(Click to reveal spoiler) seeing her being portrayed in a negative way just seemed a bit harsh and unbelievable.

I think that the author tried to do something very interesting and unique here. While I appreciate her efforts in bringing alive a character that was hidden in the background, I do not think that it was executed too well and I didn’t really enjoy the story. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

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