Title: The Other Bennet Sister
Author: Janice Hadlow
Release Date: January 9, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction / Romance
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Mary, the bookish ugly duckling of Pride and Prejudice’s five Bennet sisters, emerges from the shadows and transforms into a desired woman with choices of her own.
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.
Mary’s destiny diverges from that of her sisters. It does not involve broad acres or landed gentry. But it does include a man; and, as in all Austen novels, Mary must decide whether he is the truly the one for her. In The Other Bennet Sister, Mary is a fully rounded character—complex, conflicted, and often uncertain; but also vulnerable, supremely sympathetic, and ultimately the protagonist of an uncommonly satisfying debut novel.
I recently read Longbourn, Pride and Prejudice from the servant’s point of view, so it was fun to contrast that now with Mary’s story. This book takes place starting prior to P&P and finishes after P&P.
Things weren’t easy for Mary growing up. Her mother was quite verbally abusive, and it took a toll on Mary. Mrs. Bennet berated Mary at every turn. It was tough being in Mary’s shoes. But, it brought tears to my eyes to see Mary grow to be bold, self assured, and confident in herself and her decisions.
The romance was very slow building, which I enjoyed. However, it doesn’t begin to take place until the middle of the book. I enjoyed the romance, but I will say that many will be driven nuts by the lack of communication that leads to turmoil between Mary and her beau.
And one other thing I found a bit of fault with was the length. There was so much background given for Mary and much of it was necessary. But, there was still a good bit that I found tedious in the end once I saw that it didn’t play a bigger role. It just felt a little too long in places.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, and it held my interest all the way through (even with the length). Mary’s growth was beautiful to watch. I was so happy to see her end up with the man of her choice in the end (there’s a bit of a triangle). It was also nice to see a couple individuals encourage Mary and help her along her way. I think fans of Pride and Prejudice will enjoy this one even if they don’t love every aspect of it. 4 Stars!
*Review Note: Please check out trigger warnings elsewhere if you have triggers. I tend to overlook adding them in my reviews.*
Have you read The Other Bennet Sister? Are you planning to? Are you participating in #JaneAustenJuly? Do you have any Austen-inspired book recommendations?