Mary B

Mary B

by Katherine J. Chen

Overview: What is to be done with Mary Bennet? She possesses neither the beauty of her eldest sister, Jane, nor the high-spirited wit of second-born 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.

Set before, during, and after the events of Pride and Prejudice, Katherine J. Chen’s vividly original debut novel pays homage to a beloved classic while envisioning a life that is difficult to achieve in any era: that of a truly independent woman.

Deanna Boe (03/11/19): This book gives an unusual twist to the famous book Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It is not the first one to try and do something like this, and I am guessing it won’t be the last. But, it is unusual since it features the sister, Mary, who is basically ignored in Austen’s novel. Why? Mary is a plain and not that exciting of a character and that is probably the reason. Chen takes “plain Mary” and the whole storyline is told from her viewpoint. Mary is the third sister of five. The first two, Jane and Elizabeth are beautiful, and as such attract the attention of all the most desirable and sought after males in England; the ones who not only have a title, but money and looks to go with it. Mary’s family is not wealthy nor do they have a male heir to inherit what property they do have and because of that it must go to a male relative of theirs. This reason alone is why it is vital that Jane and Elizabeth marry well. The two younger sisters are somewhat wild and the family’s future does not depend on them, in fact, one has a tragic ending. Poor Mary is entirely overlooked, thus making it interesting to have the story told from her viewpoint. Chen is a good writer and does provide a different slant to this legendary novel, but for those of you who are major fans of Jane Austen, this might not be the book for you.
Rating: ***

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