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Mary B: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice

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The overlooked middle sister in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice casts off her prim exterior and takes center stage in this fresh retelling of the classic novel. I will tell you the story of how I knew myself to be plain and therefore devoid of the one virtue which it behooves every woman to have. What is to be done with Mary Bennet? She possesses neither the beauty of her The overlooked middle sister in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice casts off her prim exterior and takes center stage in this fresh retelling of the classic novel. I will tell you the story of how I knew myself to be plain and therefore devoid of the one virtue which it behooves every woman to have. 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. 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.


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The overlooked middle sister in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice casts off her prim exterior and takes center stage in this fresh retelling of the classic novel. I will tell you the story of how I knew myself to be plain and therefore devoid of the one virtue which it behooves every woman to have. What is to be done with Mary Bennet? She possesses neither the beauty of her The overlooked middle sister in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice casts off her prim exterior and takes center stage in this fresh retelling of the classic novel. I will tell you the story of how I knew myself to be plain and therefore devoid of the one virtue which it behooves every woman to have. 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. 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.

30 review for Mary B: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice

  1. 3 out of 5

    Liz

    I still count Pride and Prejudice as my favorite novel of all time. So, it’s always with some trepidation that I tackle any book that’s meant as a continuation or spin off or story told from a different viewpoint. There have been some that have worked well. Longbourn comes to mind. But Mary B, not so much. Told from the perspective of Mary, the plain, nose in a book, middle sister, it was boring in the extreme. Mary longs to be noticed, by her father, by the young officers, by Mr. Collins, by an I still count Pride and Prejudice as my favorite novel of all time. So, it’s always with some trepidation that I tackle any book that’s meant as a continuation or spin off or story told from a different viewpoint. There have been some that have worked well. Longbourn comes to mind. But Mary B, not so much. Told from the perspective of Mary, the plain, nose in a book, middle sister, it was boring in the extreme. Mary longs to be noticed, by her father, by the young officers, by Mr. Collins, by anyone… Chen does a passable job in getting the language and writing style correct. But there’s none of the wit of Austen. Mary has a woebegone character, a black cloud perpetually over her head. What she also gets very wrong are the other characters. Are we to believe that this cold hearted, vain female is supposed to be Lizzy? That becoming mistress of Pemberley has turned her into someone I didn’t recognize? Or this dastardly version of Colonel Fitzwilliam? As the book moves into Part Two, we move into a future unforeseen by Austen. And while there are a few interesting and fun scenes, most of the chapters devolve into a cheap romance novel. It’s one thing for Mary to pen almost comically florid scenes, it’s another for our author. I will give Chen credit for delving into the real dangers of womanhood in the 18th century. I have to give fair warning to those who adore P&P. Avoid this book! My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this novel.

  2. 3 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    Warning, a semi-spoilers rant ahead. The latest cash-in on Jane Austen, I think, might have been an okay book if it had been set in Austen's period with original characters, instead of wrenching and distorting the plot, characters, and moral substrate of Pride and Prejudice out of all recognition (amid countless details of the period gotten wrong) in order to turn it into melodrama with a contemporary moral overlay. Chen's narrative voice attempts a period flavor, without being aware of period tur Warning, a semi-spoilers rant ahead. The latest cash-in on Jane Austen, I think, might have been an okay book if it had been set in Austen's period with original characters, instead of wrenching and distorting the plot, characters, and moral substrate of Pride and Prejudice out of all recognition (amid countless details of the period gotten wrong) in order to turn it into melodrama with a contemporary moral overlay. Chen's narrative voice attempts a period flavor, without being aware of period turns of phrase. At least she wrote in complete sentences, many of them compound and even complex. And there were enough striking images and bits of insight to make me think that this writer, with a few more novels under her belt (or a much better editor) will be someone to watch. Alas, those pluses didn't outweigh the many, many minuses. I finally had to stop taking notes of period impossibilities, as no one wants to trudge through a long list. A few of the most egregious examples will suffice, such as how unbelievable I found it that an earl's son would mistake a young lady for a housemaid, even if he were reeling drunk. (Which he seemed to be, totally out of character.) Even if he were too blind to see her apron and mob cap, the housemaid's language and accent would set him straight. There were constant gnat-bites such as young ladies drinking wine at a ball, instead of negus, orgeat, or lemonade, and pinning up their hair as children instead of wearing braids. A housekeeper gulping water meant for her mistress, and so on. No one's age was right; Mr. Darcy in Austen's story has good manners, if cold. Here he addresses girls by their first names when slinking out to whine about how awful he finds balls, and grinds his teeth at matchmaking mamas; Mr. Bennet unaccountably becomes uncle, instead of cousin, to Mr. Collins (with no explanation of how his younger brother would have a different last name). Repeatedly Mary blames her father for the girls' lack of education, when in P&P Lizzie made it clear to Lady Catherine that those of her sisters who wanted masters got them. All this sort of error should have been caught at the editorial level. But the total distortion of the characters is on the author. Lizzie Bennet becomes a hypocrite and a whiner (actually, everyone whines), Mary an object of pity as her sisters, harridans and idiots by turn, torment her for her philosophical and poetic interests as well as her terrible looks. (Even the preternaturally bright and observant Mary doesn't seem to be aware that Kitty is just as undistinguished.) Darcy is a mumbling, awkward dolt, and Lizzie's wit is totally sacrificed in order to award it to Mary, to underscore how their father only values Lizzie for her beauty instead of poor Mary, who loves to read but is homely. Euw, just ew. There is no evidence whatsoever in P&P that Mr. Bennet noticed any of his daughters' looks--his favoritism for Lizzie was in their sharing reading and most of all a sense of humor, not him relishing her beauty. Ick. In P&P, once Lizzie accepts Darcy, it's clear in the conversations in those ending chapters that the two of them will have a terrific marriage because they begin to communicate. These two will always find one another fascinating, and he--burdened with responsibility at far too young an age--learns to laugh. And Mr. Bennet, the text states, delights in coming to visit unexpectedly, which seems to me to indicate they all have a great time together. But in this story, all three are robbed of their intelligence, wit, and laughter, so that poor, downtrodden Mary can rise above them. I think there is a story here, in a middle sister overlooked at either end of a large family, blessed with smarts and no looks, making a good life for herself [although we got that peripherally with Charlotte Lucas], but mapping it over Pride and Prejudice forces the reader to contrast Austen's wit, sharp observation of real human traits, and their complexities, with the melodramatic turns and the tendency toward put-upon whining in this book. All the humor is stripped away, and everyone's intelligence is stolen in order to award it to Mary, who in P&P was in the plight she was in not because she was homely, but because she was oblivious. Austen's Mary is probably on the spectrum, as she isn't a close observer of life. She prefers her ponderous tomes because they make sense to her. She plays badly not because she wasn't taught, but because she has no ear. The Mary we read here is the heroine of fan-fiction, smarter than everyone around her, more observant, more pitiable, but finally rewarded beyond anyone else in the story, in a way that cheapens characters whose moral convictions were so strongly a part of what made them attractive. I think the reader who will enjoy this story will be the fan of the Keira Knightley P&P film, which was full of errors but made up for it in emotional angst. Copy provided by NetGalley

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Thanks to Netgalley for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review It is a truth that must be universally acknowledged that Jane Austen retellings don't always leave me satisfied. Earlier this summer I felt myself very giddy after reading about Kitty Bennett in What Kitty did Next and I couldn't wait to hear about middle sister, Mary. Alas, Mary is the Northanger Abbey of the Bennett sisters. It's going to take awhile before I find an adaptation that will make me grin. Told in three parts, Mary Thanks to Netgalley for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review It is a truth that must be universally acknowledged that Jane Austen retellings don't always leave me satisfied. Earlier this summer I felt myself very giddy after reading about Kitty Bennett in What Kitty did Next and I couldn't wait to hear about middle sister, Mary. Alas, Mary is the Northanger Abbey of the Bennett sisters. It's going to take awhile before I find an adaptation that will make me grin. Told in three parts, Mary B is Pride and Prejudice from Mary's perspective. The first 42% of the story tells us what we already know- Jane/Bingley, Elizabeth/Darcy, and Lydia/Wickham. Plus, Mary gets her heart broken by cousin, Mr. Collins. The book then continues with Mary wanting to pursue being a novelist and dallying in the romantic world. Except the romance was so highly unbelievable that I wanted to throw my ereader across the room Call me a purest, but no man(or woman) should separate what Jane Austen has already written. Mr Darcy +Lizzy =forever!

  4. 3 out of 5

    J. W. Garrett

    “Gloom, despair, and agony on me… Deep, dark depression, excessive misery…” GLOOM, DESPAIR AND AGONY ON ME From the TV show “Hee-Haw” (1969 – 1992) Buch Owens & Roy Clark Warning: To those who love P&P and Austen’s characters… this could be hazardous to your blood pressure. What was I thinking? Apparently, I wasn’t. Reading a story that features secondary and even tertiary characters of a popular book is iffy at best. This story focused on Mary, the middle child of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in “Gloom, despair, and agony on me… Deep, dark depression, excessive misery…” GLOOM, DESPAIR AND AGONY ON ME From the TV show “Hee-Haw” (1969 – 1992) Buch Owens & Roy Clark Warning: To those who love P&P and Austen’s characters… this could be hazardous to your blood pressure. What was I thinking? Apparently, I wasn’t. Reading a story that features secondary and even tertiary characters of a popular book is iffy at best. This story focused on Mary, the middle child of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Within a few minutes of starting the story I was impressed with the Regency style of writing. The use of words and the attempt to mimic the Austenesque style was impressive. However, that soon bogged down as if I were walking six-inches deep in mud. As I continued reading… I was forced to put the book down several times in order to lower my blood pressure. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a good story with Mary, as I have read several that left me smiling and I was glad I read them. This work was in three parts. Part 1 ended at 42% and I was ready to slit my own throat. If I were to categorize Mary… I’d say she suffered from Middle Child Syndrome. In birth order, she was sandwiched between Jane [the beauty], Lizzy [the lively wit and her father’s favorite], and the two younger, silly, sisters Kitty and Lydia [her mother’s favorite]. She felt overlooked, unappreciated and neglected. This was not a happy reading. It was dark, everyone abused and taunted Mary. She was the butt of a cruel joke by the neighbor boy as he tried to garner Jane’s attention. Even in the presence of their mother, the younger sisters would taunt her. Many times, their father was nearby and would simply shake his head and smirk… doing nothing. And that mother… she was quick to scrutinize Mary looks, appearance, her body and lack of enticing features… it was horrid. There were moments when Jane tried to comfort her but even then… Mary couldn’t overcome her abused feeling and wounded heart. When Part 1 ended, Collins had married Charlotte, leaving Mary with a broken heart. Lydia had reached her youthful and silly goal of marrying before her sisters. Jane and Lizzy married their hearts desire and Mary was invited to visit Pemberley. We were in her head for the POV… it was self-reflecting, self-evaluating and a rather dismal place. All the negative emotions known to man were experienced by our Mary and thought upon ad nauseam. To be honest… I didn’t like her one bit. At times she was cruel and vindictive and just plain nasty. Just when I wanted to chuck the whole thing, she would have an endearing conversation with Darcy. I liked him… until I started to suspect something wasn’t just right. Since Part 1 followed the Austen timeline, I knew that Part 2 would be uncharted territory as Austen ended with only a shadow of future felicity between the older married sisters and their younger siblings. Part 2: this was certainly not Austen… this was more Brontë with its dark reflection and soul shriveling, dejected angst. Mary was a series of contradictions and a far cry from Austen’s character. Who was this woman? What was her purpose in the story except to pull the reader down into her world of being bullied, neglected and ignored by everyone around her. With every ray of sunshine, our author provided a cloud or pouring rain. With every compliment, we were given a resounding negative feature of her person or character. Why am I still reading this book? OMG!! The unthinkable has happened at Pemberley on more than one level and I am so disgusted. This is not Mary and certainly not Elizabeth. Our dear Colonel is no longer so dear or so nice. Oh-My-Gosh! I have an idea where I think this is going. Surely this author will not breach that trust. I think our author is on a quest to see how many ways thing can go really-really-terribly WRONG in Austen’s universe. Everything that could get screwed… was. WTH!! [what the heck] Was this a ruse to squash the love the JAFF community has for Austen’s characters? Was this a treatment to diminish their behavior to the uncanny and ridiculous? What was the purpose of this story? Where was the love… this was a pale and thinly veiled impression of love? I just didn’t see it. OMG! It happened! Just as I thought… and then the author took this beyond… to the insanely ridiculous… the inexcusable… the unthinkable… and finally, the unforgivable. I am beyond angry… I want to scream, to throw something, to cuss [I don’t curse but I might take it up], I want to burn this book [except it is an e-book], I am so upset I can’t breathe. This is not our beloved Austen characters… this is Dickens, Brontë and all those that write dark twisted and nefarious stories where the sun NEVER shines on our characters. Everything that could go dark did. Who was this Lizzy? Who was this Darcy? He would never… would he? OMG! No-no-no-NO!!! I am so disgusted. I hate this and wonder why I continued reading this... horrid, horrid story. I have NEVER seen this twisted plot-line before and I certainly hope I never see it again. I do not recommend this to my fellow JAFF readers unless you want a Twilight Zone type of story. I hate not finishing a story but I may do myself harm if I continue with this depressing dark story. Read it at your own will. Dang!! Famous last words… like a train wreck… I had to look. I did finish it with shock, awe and amazement at what the author did to this ending. DANG!! I volunteered to read an uncorrected proof via the publisher and NetGalley... and now wish I hadn’t. The views expressed are my own. I barely finished this with my jaws clinched so hard I may need to see my dentist. I wanted to choose 5-stars, but chose 2-stars for the creativity and the writing style. It was beautifully written for such a horrid outcome to our beloved characters. I am seriously displeased. [Estimated publication: July 24, 2018] Edit 6-18-18 make that 2-stars…

  5. 3 out of 5

    Juli

    I have to admit that I never really wondered what happened to Mary Bennett after the closing lines of Pride & Prejudice. And I smiled and laughed at the subtle humor Jane Austen used in portraying Mary's opinions, her unattractiveness, and sullen behavior in social situations in comparison with her other four sisters. I glossed over Mary as just a plot point, an unimportant side character. I never really gave her much thought. Until now. Mary B is a re-telling and continuation of the Pride a I have to admit that I never really wondered what happened to Mary Bennett after the closing lines of Pride & Prejudice. And I smiled and laughed at the subtle humor Jane Austen used in portraying Mary's opinions, her unattractiveness, and sullen behavior in social situations in comparison with her other four sisters. I glossed over Mary as just a plot point, an unimportant side character. I never really gave her much thought. Until now. Mary B is a re-telling and continuation of the Pride and Prejudice story from Mary Bennett's point of view. Mary starts out by saying that she realized at a very young age that she was totally plain and that this one fact would effect her entire life. She wouldn't be considered a prize for marriage or ever be a contender for her parent's love, affection, or pride because she would be over-shadowed in entirety by all of her other sisters. Then she tells the familiar classic story from her vantage point. Is she morose, jealous, insecure, whiny and at times vindictive? Yep. But, she is the middle child in the center of a classic novel people have been reading for more than 200 years. In all those 200 years nobody ever thought to ask what happened to poor Mary Bennett when her pretty sisters left. Jane Austen didn't even care enough about the character to give a hint at the end of P&P. Mary just disappeared. *Poof* Not important. Many will balk at the idea of the P&P canon being challenged when characters put forth as kind and intelligent show themselves to also be a bit vain, mean, and even careless. But, it must be kept in mind that this re-telling is from the perspective of a middle child who sees her sisters in a different light than anyone else. She lives with them, eats with them, watches their behavior.....and colors everything with the backlash of her emotions as the plain one, the one nobody wants or cares about. I found this book to be well-written....a creative and brave debut novel! Taking classic, beloved characters and giving them a bit of a public dressing down opens a story up to backlash from loyal readers of the original. Judging from some of the reviews I read, some just couldn't "connect" with this book. They love Lizzy and Jane.....and didn't care about some side character's jealousies and feelings. Understandable. But, I put my feelings about Jane, Lizzy and all of Austen's intentions for her characters aside for awhile, and just let Chen tell Mary's story. The story gives insight not only into Mary and the Bennetts, but also into the characters of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Collins, and Col. Fitzwilliam outside of the confines of the original novel (which is also a brave move on the part of the author). Did I agree with all of it? No. I felt that Mary's side of things was perhaps a bit too harsh, pessimistic and dark. But......Mary feels slighted by her family and everyone around her. Of course her view of everything would be pessimistic and dark. All in all, I enjoyed this book. I like the original better and always will. It's a classic...and perfect the way it is. It is Mary's fate to be a side character included in the story only to further the tale of Lizzy and Darcy, Jane and Bingley. Just like Kitty and Lydia who pretty much got dumped unceremoniously at the end....Mary flings off into nothingness at the close of P&P. She was never a fully developed character, but a caricature of the less attractive sister who is an embarrassment and impediment for her elder sisters. Mary B is Katherine Chen's debut novel. I would definitely read more by this author. I like her writing style. The story concept is interesting and very creative. The tale kept my attention from beginning to end, even if I did disagree with some of the characterizations and events. **I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Random House via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Flynn

    Sometimes the disparity between the opinions of professional reviewers and ordinary readers is huge, and that has certainly been the case here. Reviewers seem to love the liberties that Katherine J. Chen has taken with Austen’s characters; an unusual number of early readers are outraged. For myself, I read this fast, over a midweek 36 hours, and the whole time was in the unusual condition of not knowing what to think. I still don’t. The idea of Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the ig Sometimes the disparity between the opinions of professional reviewers and ordinary readers is huge, and that has certainly been the case here. Reviewers seem to love the liberties that Katherine J. Chen has taken with Austen’s characters; an unusual number of early readers are outraged. For myself, I read this fast, over a midweek 36 hours, and the whole time was in the unusual condition of not knowing what to think. I still don’t. The idea of Pride and Prejudice from the point of view of the ignored, mocked, plain middle sister is pure genius. And Katherine J. Chen can string together a sentence. Her chapters often end with a sort of lyrical step back. Many, even among the outraged, have praised the writing. At the start of the work, it sounds to me like Mary Bennett would: sonorous and pompous, heavy on adjectives and adverbs. As the story advances, the style becomes more dreamy, befitting the new adventures Mary is having. I took a wary pleasure in Chen’s writing; I never could quite relax into this book. A mixed metaphor -- a seed mushrooming into a prolific vine, when the object being described was a manuscript – would make me pause to wonder: is this narrator Mary’s infelicity with language, or the author’s? I wanted to believe it was the former – that the author was in on the joke and subtly undermining her character’s overdone prose. The assured absurdity of the novel-within-a-novel supported this theory. But I was never sure. Small gaffes like “quill pens” and “lunchtime,” two terms a circa-1800 Mary Bennet would never use, pointed to a larger sense in which the book felt adrift both from its source material and from the social and historical context in which Pride and Prejudice exists. The Scylla and Charybdis of historical fiction are either bogging down in a pedantic amount of detail or getting things wrong. Mary B avoids the former but sometimes fudges the kind of details that must always concern a novelist, like how to get people in and out of a room, or on and off a horse. But maybe the unmoored quality was intentional? Is this actually a purposely absurd metafiction? To decide if a book is working, you need a clear idea of what it’s attempting. This can be harder than it appears. From reading the media reviews, and then the Goodreads reviews, I thought that Katherine J. Chen might be simply trying, in the best-chosen language, to troll the entire Jane Austen fan fiction community. This was such an audacious notion that I immediately was curious to read it. The central argument of the novel, it seemed, was this: Plain, awkward girls, the ones that no one notices, have tender and passionate feelings too. Which is certainly true, and a case worth making. The feisty little nobody who banters with the alpha male and wins his heart – we all know that story, and nobody told it better than Charlotte Bronte, whose Jane Eyre sizzles off the page with righteous indignation as fresh it were still 1847. Mary B starts in that strain, which is tricky. She’s no orphan having books thrown at her, sent to a horrible school, fed burnt porridge and obliged to earn her living as a governess. Austen doesn’t do burnt porridge and child abuse, and the introduction of it into her world produces an odd effect. But then the story takes another turn entirely. After 19 years of being an ugly duckling, Mary goes to Pemberley for a long visit after Elizabeth's marriage. There, she starts writing a novel, and finds herself becoming an object of interest both to Colonel Fitzwilliam and Darcy himself. Her lack of beauty, such a preoccupation of Mary's in the first section, mysteriously ceases to exist as a problem. Her wit and intelligence attract these men, for she has turned into an articulate, self-assured person such as she never was in P&P. But why and how this change takes place -- which seems like it ought to be the heart of the novel -- is never answered to my satisfaction. It seems to just happen, and then some other stuff happens as a result. Elizabeth has also undergone a major change in personality. Although some motivation is given, her transformation is abrupt, and the person she turns into seems, like the book overall, to not quite make sense either in terms of Austen’s novel or the world it sprang from. So I return, puzzled, to the question of intent. Is Mary just an unreliable narrator, and the story she tells of her stay at Pemberley as fictional as the gothic novel she’s writing? Is that what is going on here, and this is what the professional reviewers have grasped that has eluded the ordinary readers? Is there less to this story than I had hoped to find, or more than I have the wit to see?

  7. 3 out of 5

    Aimee

    I was really excited to read a book about an often overlooked character from Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet. Unfortunately I did not end up liking the book at all. The author seemed to go out of her way to make every other character in the beloved book become selfish and awful in order to elevate Mary to heroine material. I was very upset with how Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth were betrayed and it made no sense at all. If you are a true Pride and Prejudice fan I would not read this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    Die-hard Jane Austen fans, those especially smitten with Pride and Prejudice, may find themselves in a fit of rage or tears (...or both) if they pick up this retelling covering the events before, during, and after the timeline of the original story. Told by overlooked middle sister Mary Bennet, she explains how she understood from a young age that she was not valued as her older sisters were because she was plain and unlikely to find a suitable husband.  Mr. Collins, the cousin who will take contr Die-hard Jane Austen fans, those especially smitten with Pride and Prejudice, may find themselves in a fit of rage or tears (...or both) if they pick up this retelling covering the events before, during, and after the timeline of the original story. Told by overlooked middle sister Mary Bennet, she explains how she understood from a young age that she was not valued as her older sisters were because she was plain and unlikely to find a suitable husband.  Mr. Collins, the cousin who will take control of the estate once Mr. Bennet dies, arrives at Longbourn with the intentions of proposing to one of the Bennet sisters.  Mrs. Bennet explains that Jane is practically engaged already to Mr. Bingley and so Lizzie is naturally next in line. A flirtation arises between Mary and Mr. Collins but Mary soon finds herself heartbroken after learning that he has proposed to their neighbor Charlotte after Lizzie rejected him. When Jane and Lizzie become engaged at the same time, they hold a double wedding and begin their lives at their new estates.  Lydia writes often to request money from her newly married sisters as her husband Wickham leaves for days at a time and people arrive to collect his gambling debts. Mary is invited to stay at Pemberly, where she spends her days reading, writing, and caring for pregnant Lizzie.  Soon Darcy's cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam comes to stay and though they have a rocky start, a friendship soon blossoms into much more. I don't want to give away some shocking details about the fate of some of the Bennet sisters but suffice it to say that things take a dark and dramatic turn, which will leave some readers shocked after the hopeful and positive ending for the beloved characters of Austen's classic. Shocking behavior fills the pages, loyalties are tested, and scandal and betrayal turn this retelling into a dark soap opera. If you want a faithful retelling of Pride and Prejudice which stays true to the morals and virtues of Austen's characters, I suggest What Kitty Did Next by Carrie Kablean (read my review here), which is told from Kitty's perspective. If you want to read a retelling that will shatter all the things you thought you knew about the Bennets (and their spouses!), then Mary B will certainly shake things up! Thanks to Random House and Edelweiss for providing me with a DRC in exchange for my honest review.  Mary B is scheduled for release on July 24, 2018. For more full reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    Okay... So, here’s what we’re not going to do... we are not going to take THE most beloved characters of THE most beloved classic, and rewrite them to be completely and utterly devoid of the virtues and morals that made Pride & Prejudice the masterpiece that it is. You want to expand and expound upon what happened after the I Do’s at Pemberley? — fine. You want to imagine what it must have been like for a middle daughter to watch happiness appear to pass her by in favor of her more reputedly Okay... So, here’s what we’re not going to do... we are not going to take THE most beloved characters of THE most beloved classic, and rewrite them to be completely and utterly devoid of the virtues and morals that made Pride & Prejudice the masterpiece that it is. You want to expand and expound upon what happened after the I Do’s at Pemberley? — fine. You want to imagine what it must have been like for a middle daughter to watch happiness appear to pass her by in favor of her more reputedly beautiful sisters? — bravo! That is a genuinely interesting angle and perspective from which to write. But, what we are not going to do is decimate the cornerstone characters of, arguably, the best loved novel in history, so you can turn your “Mary B” into something even she seemed uncomfortable being! No! No, I’m sorry! We are not going to do that! I give this novel 2-stars. One is for it being a debut, and the other because the writing is without question stellar. Absolutely stellar. I’m tempted to give it a third star for the sheer bravado of attempting such a feat as destroying a masterpiece to create a cheap knockoff! Do we applaud this author for her creative integrity, or pity her for the enormous stupidity of thinking this would be a good idea? Do we give her a round of applause for her willingness to forego book sales in favor of boasting that she stuck to her vision, or do we question what publishing house would take the risk of angering and alienating the very audience they need to make this novel a success? I say — Yes, to all of the above. To “Mary B” I bestow a Merry F.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tammy Buchli

    This book surprised me. Throughout the first third, I was convinced it was a 2-star book. I caught a number of anachronisms and the descriptions (a slovenly Longbourne and a diminutive Mr. Collins) made me think more of the Keira Knightly film than the original novel. But something happened once the action moved past the end of Austen’s tale — the last 2/3rds of this thing was GREAT! I read a lot of Austen variations and I appreciate one that goes all in and makes some real changes to the canon. This book surprised me. Throughout the first third, I was convinced it was a 2-star book. I caught a number of anachronisms and the descriptions (a slovenly Longbourne and a diminutive Mr. Collins) made me think more of the Keira Knightly film than the original novel. But something happened once the action moved past the end of Austen’s tale — the last 2/3rds of this thing was GREAT! I read a lot of Austen variations and I appreciate one that goes all in and makes some real changes to the canon. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen. The writing was good overall (notwithstanding those unfortunate anachronisms), and I enjoyed the charactarizations, surprising as some of them ended up being. And I really liked the ending. I graded it down a star for that crummy first third, but it ended up being a pretty darned good read. This review was based on an ARC ebook received in return for an honest and unbiased review.

  11. 3 out of 5

    Judy Lesley

    This is not a sympathetic Pride and Prejudice variation. Readers for these books usually fall roughly into three categories: (1) the readers who want a new slant but keeping the main characters intact, (2) the readers who want to go completely off the rails from the original story, or (3) those who are reading for the historical fiction alone with no particular interest in Jane Austen's work. I fall into the first category and consequently found this variation changed too many characters' person This is not a sympathetic Pride and Prejudice variation. Readers for these books usually fall roughly into three categories: (1) the readers who want a new slant but keeping the main characters intact, (2) the readers who want to go completely off the rails from the original story, or (3) those who are reading for the historical fiction alone with no particular interest in Jane Austen's work. I fall into the first category and consequently found this variation changed too many characters' personalities. I don't feel this novel is particularly well written, but even if it had been there would have been too many beloved characters sacrificed in order to give Mary Bennet her own story. I had always felt a little sorry for Mary Bennet so the premise of a novel from her viewpoint was intriguing. Ms. Chen certainly gave Mary her own chance to be center stage. Unfortunately in order to give Mary the lead role the author made the decision to substantially change almost everything I love from the original story. Mary has taken up writing and turns out her first novel in record time so this book is filled with Mary planning, plotting and writing a novel that Chen portrays as more Gothic than the Gothic novels of the period. For me, even the novel within the novel was poorly done. I received a digital galley of this novel through NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group. Thank you.

  12. 3 out of 5

    Suzanne

    As I worked my way through the first third to half of the book, I came to the realization that its biggest challenge is Mary Bennett. She is just not that likable. You do feel a little sorry for her, but at the same time, she is her own worst enemy. Honestly, she's irritating. What I did like about the book is how it makes you truly realize just how limited the choices were for women in those days. Marriage was the goal and women were judged by how much money they might bring to the union and/or As I worked my way through the first third to half of the book, I came to the realization that its biggest challenge is Mary Bennett. She is just not that likable. You do feel a little sorry for her, but at the same time, she is her own worst enemy. Honestly, she's irritating. What I did like about the book is how it makes you truly realize just how limited the choices were for women in those days. Marriage was the goal and women were judged by how much money they might bring to the union and/or their looks. If your birth lottery gave you neither, you faced a depressing future. But even with marriage attained, you then faced the much more daunting prospect of dying in childbirth (a significant risk at that time). The second half picks up in action (likely because it's now beyond the timing of Pride and Prejudice) but then veers into territory that will have Austen fans up in arms. And frankly, was just not believable. I liked Longbourn and I also liked the TV adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley so I'm not necessarily an Austen purist. I thought it would be interesting to see that world through a different set of eyes. Unfortunately, this one didn't work for me. Thanks to the publisher for the ARC. Opinions are my own.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Barb

    Full review closer to publication date, but here are a couple of quick comments. In the JAFF world there are many unwritten rules which most authors follow. This story basically breaks almost all of those rules. Chen chooses to demonstrate a few things which may have been hidden from the reader during the main story of Pride and Prejudice. In addition, characters change after Austen’s story ends in ways that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Mary B is such a stretch for this hardcore reader of P Full review closer to publication date, but here are a couple of quick comments. In the JAFF world there are many unwritten rules which most authors follow. This story basically breaks almost all of those rules. Chen chooses to demonstrate a few things which may have been hidden from the reader during the main story of Pride and Prejudice. In addition, characters change after Austen’s story ends in ways that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Mary B is such a stretch for this hardcore reader of P&P JAFF to accept. However, what I can accept is that Chen provides a well written, entertaining story that kind of takes my P&P reality for a spin. I am not sure how well this version will be accepted by JAFF enthusiasts, but I still recommend you read it to give yourself an opportunity to argue for or against. This should be interesting

  14. 3 out of 5

    Kristin Davison

    2.5 stars I would like to thank netgalley and Random House Publishing for the opportunity to read this book. Just about any tragic thing that could happen to the Bennets did happen to them in this book. The plot became ridiculous and the only redeeming feature is that lots of books from the time period were mentioned.

  15. 3 out of 5

    Linda Zagon

    Katherine J. Chen, Author of "Mary B" An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice, writes her novel on Mary Bennet the middle sister.  The author deals with "What if"about Mary  using a unique and fresh perspective. In the original "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austin, there is very little input about Mary. The other sisters overshadow Mary, and with their mother's aggressive approach to marrying well, is  basically ignored. In Katherine J. Chen's novel, Mary is set stage and center. The Genres for t Katherine J. Chen, Author of "Mary B" An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice, writes her novel on Mary Bennet the middle sister.  The author deals with "What if"about Mary  using a unique and fresh perspective. In the original "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austin, there is very little input about Mary. The other sisters overshadow Mary, and with their mother's aggressive approach to marrying well, is  basically ignored. In Katherine J. Chen's novel, Mary is set stage and center. The Genres for this novel are Fiction, Women's Fiction, with a touch of Historical Fiction. The story takes place in England in the nineteen century, and is set in the past, present and future around the other Bennet sisters' stories. At this time in history, women's roles were to marry to someone well established. It is a male dominated society.  Men who had lesser titles also wanted to marry well. This was a time was it was important for the wealthy to have heirs, and often the real estate was left to the nearest male relative. The author describes Mary as complex and complicated. The sisters appear to be jealous, immature, selfish , and at times mean. Some of the men in the story seem to be very shallow, and insecure.There are betrayals, and false promises. Mary has been regarded as a "wallflower". She doesn't like balls, or groups. Often it is like Mary is invisible, and her family is not sure if she is there or not.  Family and others often joke or put Mary down. Mary's escape is reading books. Soon Mary starts to write books. My favorite part of the story is when Mary seems to be "modernized" and more independent and seeks her own path. What is to become of Mary Bennet? I would recommend this book to readers that like fiction and historical  fiction of this time period. Although this book is referenced to "Pride and Prejudice" it is a stand alone.I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review..

  16. 5 out of 5

    India

    Like the author, I was (and still am) very sympathetic to Mary Bennet in the original novel. I always thought there was more to be explored with her, so I was thrilled try this book. However, while reading this book, my sympathy and curiosity about Mary evaporated. It's entirely possible to write a novel that critiques Austen-era social structures and assumptions without completely changing the motivations and defining characteristics from "Pride and Prejudice." If you like the original novel, t Like the author, I was (and still am) very sympathetic to Mary Bennet in the original novel. I always thought there was more to be explored with her, so I was thrilled try this book. However, while reading this book, my sympathy and curiosity about Mary evaporated. It's entirely possible to write a novel that critiques Austen-era social structures and assumptions without completely changing the motivations and defining characteristics from "Pride and Prejudice." If you like the original novel, this book isn't for you. I tried to look beyond that, but it was impossible. There are historical inaccuracies (as pointed out by other reviewers), and while Chen tries to write in an Austen-esque style, her characters' dialogue often get derailed with a modern turn of phrase at the end of an increasingly complex sentence. At times, the book also seems to paraphrase "Jane Eyre." That book is seen by many as Charlotte Bronte's reply to Jane Austen's works, and it seems to me that Katherine J. Chen is trying to do the same thing-- create a new dialogue about a work published generations before she was born. It also seems to me that Chen is trying to get the same message across as Charlotte Bronte. Colonel Fitzwilliam's pet names for Mary are paraphrases of what Rochester calls Jane Eyre, and Mary expresses literally the exact same ideas about love, marriage, and feeling as the other eponymous heroine. Instead of bringing fresh, new ideas to our discussions of "Pride and Prejudice," Chen poorly copies ideas that have been around for over a hundred years.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tonya

    This story is about exploring different endings than what was envisioned in Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice. The middle sister, Mary, is perceived as plain and that is how she lives her life. Until one day, she decides to escape her boring life and start writing… The writing starts Mary Bennett on a fantastic journey of adventure and heartbreak, love and sorrow as she grows into who she wants Mary B to become. Mary B is a regular pioneer in her time, fighting against the stereotypes of This story is about exploring different endings than what was envisioned in Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice. The middle sister, Mary, is perceived as plain and that is how she lives her life. Until one day, she decides to escape her boring life and start writing… The writing starts Mary Bennett on a fantastic journey of adventure and heartbreak, love and sorrow as she grows into who she wants Mary B to become. Mary B is a regular pioneer in her time, fighting against the stereotypes of women. This novel is about relationships- yes, romance of course…but it is much more than that. It is about how the familial relationships set your path in life and how hard it is to break free from those patterns. Mary B struggles to find herself and then to love herself, and in this aspect it is a beautiful journey toward self-love. If you are wanting a really good, adventurous and meaningful read on an independent woman's journey... this is the book for you!!! Pros: The writing is good. I felt like the author shows the reader what it is like to be Mary as a plain woman, often overlooked by family and friends. The adventures and the plot are good and keep me going, especially the last half to last third of the book. Cons: Some readers may not like the way characters of Pride and Prejudice are portrayed in Mary B. If you are a die-hard fan of Austen’s work and appalled at the thought of the characters living a different life than the life that Austen set for them….skip reading this book. If you are open to reading a different version, then by all means dive into Mary B!

  18. 3 out of 5

    Nancy

    It is a bold, and perhaps dangerous, mission to "reimagine" a much beloved classic novel like PRIDE & PREJUDICE. Ms. Chen demonstrated courage in taking on this challenge, as well as skill in presenting her story. Make no mistake, rabid Austenites may be outraged. The characters in Mary B do not conform to Ms. Austen's script and, although I really enjoyed the book, I did not approve of the behavior of most of the characters. Let's just agree that the reader who enjoys the book, as I did, has It is a bold, and perhaps dangerous, mission to "reimagine" a much beloved classic novel like PRIDE & PREJUDICE. Ms. Chen demonstrated courage in taking on this challenge, as well as skill in presenting her story. Make no mistake, rabid Austenites may be outraged. The characters in Mary B do not conform to Ms. Austen's script and, although I really enjoyed the book, I did not approve of the behavior of most of the characters. Let's just agree that the reader who enjoys the book, as I did, has agreed to suspend their disbelief regarding character and plot issues. One area that seemed most un-Austenlike was that we seemed veering towards a very unhappy ending. I felt like the characters were more Edith Wharton-like as they headed toward self-destruction and unhappiness. But, as the story reached its conclusion, I changed my mind; the ending was satisfactory and the character of Mary B fulfilled her destiny (as imagined by this author). NetGalley provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cora

    This made me so, so angry. I thought it might be interesting to read a novel from the point of view of the overlooked, oblivious Mary, and looked forward to reading it, but the characters and surroundings are so twisted around as to be almost unrecognizable - if it had been an original novel about a family nobody had ever written about, maybe it would have been good, but you just can't take one of the most beloved heroines in all English literature and turn her into a malicious, selfish, cold wo This made me so, so angry. I thought it might be interesting to read a novel from the point of view of the overlooked, oblivious Mary, and looked forward to reading it, but the characters and surroundings are so twisted around as to be almost unrecognizable - if it had been an original novel about a family nobody had ever written about, maybe it would have been good, but you just can't take one of the most beloved heroines in all English literature and turn her into a malicious, selfish, cold woman and expect people to ignore that. And humorless! Elizabeth Bennet, humorless! Oh, and she and Darcy are unsuited, apparently. Just to rip apart our collective memories of thirteen-year-old daydreams.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ino

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Chen described the angst of being an ugly child among beautiful siblings perfectly. She also got how being siblings does not make you friends or guarantee that you will like each other . Relationships need something to work with even with family. I took off one star for the character assasination. I’m not a die hard Jane Austen fan so I didn’t take it as personally as others but even I know that this calculating, wicked person cannot be Lizzy. Mr Darcy was too bu I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Chen described the angst of being an ugly child among beautiful siblings perfectly. She also got how being siblings does not make you friends or guarantee that you will like each other . Relationships need something to work with even with family. I took off one star for the character assasination. I’m not a die hard Jane Austen fan so I didn’t take it as personally as others but even I know that this calculating, wicked person cannot be Lizzy. Mr Darcy was too bumblingly awkward to be believable. Mr Darcy a cheat?pull the other leg sis. As for Colonel Fitzgerald well, I’ll take a good villain. Chen captured the desperation of being a plain woman so well so well it’s breathtaking. She did however take so many liberties with the original story , I doubt this book will become a cult favorite anytime soon.I hope she writes less trollish books but either way I will definitely be reading more from this author.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tracy DeNeal

    Miss Mary Bennet Still waters run deep indeed. A lovely P&P variation by a first time author. My favorite Bennet sister tells her story. At times melancholy, at times hopeful - we delve into the inner workings of Mary’s mind in first person POV. It works in this setting. In many ways everyone behaves true to character. Situations are turned about frequently, but they are certainly true to canon. The beginning of the book was plodding for my taste because it covered events that took place in t Miss Mary Bennet Still waters run deep indeed. A lovely P&P variation by a first time author. My favorite Bennet sister tells her story. At times melancholy, at times hopeful - we delve into the inner workings of Mary’s mind in first person POV. It works in this setting. In many ways everyone behaves true to character. Situations are turned about frequently, but they are certainly true to canon. The beginning of the book was plodding for my taste because it covered events that took place in the source novel. My true attention was gained when the novel diverged into original situations that take place after the end of the Austen source work. I enjoyed the story and I look forward to future books by this author.

  22. 4 out of 5

    OLT

    (If you are a Janeite like me, you may well feel that this well-written "untold" story of P&P should have remained untold.) Was it Orson Welles who said, "If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story"? So author Katherine Chen wants a happy ending for Mary, perhaps the least popular (well, in a tie with the odious Lydia) Bennet sister from Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Poor Mary, not sweet and beautiful like sister Jane, not pretty, lively and quick- (If you are a Janeite like me, you may well feel that this well-written "untold" story of P&P should have remained untold.) Was it Orson Welles who said, "If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story"? So author Katherine Chen wants a happy ending for Mary, perhaps the least popular (well, in a tie with the odious Lydia) Bennet sister from Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Poor Mary, not sweet and beautiful like sister Jane, not pretty, lively and quick-witted like Elizabeth, not a party girl like Lydia, not even as sympathetic as Kitty, who was pretty much a non-entity in Austen's novel. No. In P&P Mary comes across as plain, dull, boring, pompous, and with a deluded idea of her musical abilities. Austen didn't like Mary much. Chen wants to right this wrong. But to accomplish this, Chen has sacrificed the happy ending for many of the other characters from Austen's classic and, indeed, has taken artistic license with their personalities. However, if you are not a dyed-in-the-wool romantic and lifelong lover of P&P in all its manifestations (movies and TV mini-series in addition to the book), you will quite possibly find this novel by Chen to be entertaining and enjoyable. It's a well-written and realistic continuation of the Bennet sisters' story and does a very good job of showing the plain, ridiculed, put-upon, misunderstood Mary in a new light. The story is divided into three parts: (1) In Longbourn, before the marriages of Jane and Elizabeth, with a good deal of emphasis on Mary's early relationship with her siblings and parents, and later, Mr. Collins' visit; (2) At Pemberley, where Mary goes to visit many months after Elizabeth and Darcy's wedding and where she grows as a person and develops a "hobby"; (3) An unexpected next chapter of Mary's life, which is better left untold in this review so it will have its intended interest and surprise to a reader of the book. Chen's Mary comes into her own in this story. She will find fulfillment and independence and self-confidence by the end. She will even experience love three times. There are many things about Chen's take on Mary's life that I enjoyed. The writing is clever and in keeping with Austen's style. What a shame, however, that to bring Mary up in the world, Chen takes down some of my favorite people from the original P&P.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    An untold story of Pride & Prejudice? More like the most twisted untold (that no one wants to know) story of Pride & Prejudice. There's an appeal with a book like this, because first, that cover and title snagged my attention hook line and sinker. Mary suffers from the plain, looked over, awkward and shy character she was given by Austen. We all want to see Mary find the dream, because that's what most of us are, ordinary. The book started out encouraging. The writing style is genuine to An untold story of Pride & Prejudice? More like the most twisted untold (that no one wants to know) story of Pride & Prejudice. There's an appeal with a book like this, because first, that cover and title snagged my attention hook line and sinker. Mary suffers from the plain, looked over, awkward and shy character she was given by Austen. We all want to see Mary find the dream, because that's what most of us are, ordinary. The book started out encouraging. The writing style is genuine to the era. Even the retelling of certain events from Pride & Prejudice, from Mary's point of view intrigued me. However, it became tedious very very quickly. I could not read more than a few pages at a time. I ended up skim reading pages, and still did not miss any of the plot. By the second part of this book I wondered what had possessed me to even request this book. Part two goes down a very twisted and terrible path which completely and utterly detaches from everything the Austen fan loves about this famous classic. I won't go into detail but I found myself starting to despise the story. The characters are strangers to me. The language and morality of the cast is alien. By the final part of this book I despised it, hoping that somehow it would be redeemed, and I wondered why the author could not have given Mary something similar to this ending without degenerating Darcy & Lizzy like she did. This was terrible, I have no idea what possessed the publisher to even take this on. If however you'd like to read a beautiful version of Mary's story, may I suggest 'The Pursuit of Mary Bennet' by Pamela Mingle. I received a eARC of this book from Netgalley. This is my honest review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Mary Bennett begins her story with, "A child does not grow up with the knowledge that she is plain of dull or a complete simpleton until the accident of some event should reveal these unfortunate truths," later adding "It was therefore acknowledged" that all beauty and goodness and intelligence had been given to Jane and Lizzie, while Kitty and Lydia had ignorance, and Mary herself plainness. The child Mary saw her future as an old maid, dependent on the charity of her married sisters, unloved an Mary Bennett begins her story with, "A child does not grow up with the knowledge that she is plain of dull or a complete simpleton until the accident of some event should reveal these unfortunate truths," later adding "It was therefore acknowledged" that all beauty and goodness and intelligence had been given to Jane and Lizzie, while Kitty and Lydia had ignorance, and Mary herself plainness. The child Mary saw her future as an old maid, dependent on the charity of her married sisters, unloved and lonely, living in the shadows of life. In Mary B, author Katherine J. Chen often mirrors some of Jane Austen's most well-known epigrams and she uses the characters from Pride and Prejudice, but reader beware: this is not Jane Austen's Bennett family. And that's alright with me. As much as I love Austen--and my adoration goes back 40 years--I enjoyed Mary B on its own merits. Society finds Mary a boring, untalented, and an ugly object of derision, expanding on Austen's comic scene where Mr. Bennett stops Mary's public entertainment. I felt the instances of people bullying and denigrating Mary were too frequent at the beginning. Jane and Bingley barely figure in this retelling, but Lizzie and Darcy are key characters. Just as Cassandra and Jane Austen spent time at the home their brother Edward Austen Knight, Mary spends months with Lizzie after her marriage to Darcy. I thought the idea of Lizzie being a slob hilarious. She does, after all, walk through the dirt and rain to see Jane when she became ill while visiting the Bingleys. She had lack of pride and vanity in that scene, sisterly love more important than making an impression. In Chen's imagination, Lizzie is just a slob strewing clothes and jewels across the floor of her room. Chen gives Lydia and Lizzie endings that will offend some Austenites. The married Lydia and Lizzie both become examples of the real world evils left out of Austen: Sexual relations = pregnancy = potential for maternal illness and death and/or the death of the baby. Lydia's ending is actually quite probable. At times we see a hint of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre in the action, particularly in scenes between Mary and Col. Fitzwilliam. We--as well as several menfolk in the novel-- discover that Mary is observant, thoughtful, and creative. Several men confide in her and we learn their back stories. She is a voracious reader and writes to entertain herself. Mary relates a life that is fuller than she could have imagined as a child. She has loved three times. She has a fulfilling sexual romance. And she finds a way to be independent. Her story becomes a Feminist bildungsroman. I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    r3ad3rsan0nym0us

    Thanks to Random House for a free copy to review honestly. Quick thoughts because I believe this book had some great potential. I've wondered about Mary, sister of Jane and Lizzy (crazy Lydia) and Kitty. She liked music, read books and for the most part, doesn't play that big of a role in P&P. So I thought this retelling should be fun. Part 1 was good, Chen doesn't retell P&P but gives some insight into Mary's feelings about what's happened and how she seems to be an unwelcome wall ornam Thanks to Random House for a free copy to review honestly. Quick thoughts because I believe this book had some great potential. I've wondered about Mary, sister of Jane and Lizzy (crazy Lydia) and Kitty. She liked music, read books and for the most part, doesn't play that big of a role in P&P. So I thought this retelling should be fun. Part 1 was good, Chen doesn't retell P&P but gives some insight into Mary's feelings about what's happened and how she seems to be an unwelcome wall ornament as far as her family's concerned. Some interest from Mr. Collins sparks in Mary the idea that he could love her but as we know from P&P, he ends up with Charlotte. Part 2 takes us to Pemberly when Mary goes to visit her sister Lizzy and Bro in law Darcy. I enjoyed the early part of this section because Mary spends her time writing a novel of her own at Darcy's encouragement. A few laughs when Colonel Fitzwilliam mistakes Mary as one of the servants and calls her an 'ugly little thing'. From that point forward things start to go down hill for me as Chen deviates from the essence and nature of the characters we've come to know and love from P&P. I really had hoped Mary would come alive and I'd get to know her and hope she could find happiness, but not at the expense of, for lack of a better word, defamation of Lizzy, Darcy and even Mary herself. You can't slander (that's the word) them by turning them into people we don't know or recognize. I know retellings are popular but there seems to be something that will put me off by the time I'm finished. Retellings can have some modern jargon but please stay true to Austen and the characters.

  26. 3 out of 5

    Mary Dolan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN HEAVY SPOILERS AND A RANT. I was SO excited to read this one when I read an interview with the author online. If you're a Pride and Prejudice fan, I do not recommend this book as it will probably anger you, as it did me. I do not mean any offense to the author with my next statement, but I think that Chen really wanted to live out the "hot guy falls in love with ugly girl because of her brain" scenario through Mary. Tired as that trope is, I wouldn't have minded it so mu THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN HEAVY SPOILERS AND A RANT. I was SO excited to read this one when I read an interview with the author online. If you're a Pride and Prejudice fan, I do not recommend this book as it will probably anger you, as it did me. I do not mean any offense to the author with my next statement, but I think that Chen really wanted to live out the "hot guy falls in love with ugly girl because of her brain" scenario through Mary. Tired as that trope is, I wouldn't have minded it so much had is not been (spoiler) Mr. Darcy who fell in love with her. YES, that's right, the husband of our beloved and fundamentally good-hearted Elizabeth Bennet, who, in this novel, has become materialistic and cold, both out of plot convenience and the author wanting to make Mary seem cleverer and wittier by comparison. The thing about Austen's Mary, though, is that she is not clever or witty, and the humor in her character comes from the fact that she recites her lessons in morality without the ability to think deeply about them. Several characters became downright awful, like Lizzy, Darcy, Charlotte (which was simply ridiculous) and even Colonel Fitzwilliam (who was just a generally upstanding dude in the original P&P). I felt like the author took Lizzy's personality and gave it to Mary. And this was a trend with attractive women in the novel; many of them were characterized as vain to make Mary seem like this righteous victim all the time. I'm sorry, but if you have to assassinate a character just to make your protagonist look better by comparison, you haven't got much there. I don't think anything warrants the destruction of Lizzy Bennet's character, especially after all the character development she'd gone through. Chen tried to make it seem like Lizzy was little more than a pretty face and downplayed her love for her family, her kindness, her intelligence, and her depth of emotion. Everyone was changed so that Mary would seem a victim at all times, and she whined often about how she was so much smarter than Lizzy and yet received no credit for it. Kind of insufferable. If you're looking for a feminist read, this ain't it. All that being said, I read this book super quickly. I actually liked the writing style a lot, it was quite convincing (though, as you've probably guessed, the subject matter is a whole other thing). There were parts I enjoyed, like the friendship that originally existed between Darcy and Mary, which later became uncomfortable, unbelievable and downright ridiculous when the author tried to convince us that he'd fallen out of love with Lizzy and in love with Mary. Plus, there were several scenes between Col. Fitzwilliam and Mary that were absolutely cringeworthy. I won't be reading this one again. It was absurd. But credit where credit is due: the use of language was masterful and pleasant to read. Overall, the book left me with a bad taste in my mouth and I have an urge to reread the original P&P in order to cleanse my soul.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    From a very young age Mary Bennet realised that she was of no consequence to her family. She would never make a match that could save her family, that was for Jane. In this variation and sequel we read of events from Mary's point of view, her view of her relations which have been coloured by her perception of her worth. I really enjoyed this, it is a wonderful change to actually read about the flaws of the main characters from P&P, which can then send them in a different direction. This is no From a very young age Mary Bennet realised that she was of no consequence to her family. She would never make a match that could save her family, that was for Jane. In this variation and sequel we read of events from Mary's point of view, her view of her relations which have been coloured by her perception of her worth. I really enjoyed this, it is a wonderful change to actually read about the flaws of the main characters from P&P, which can then send them in a different direction. This is not canon it is a variation, and if you want to read variations that are not centred on Darcy and Elizabeth read this. A NetGalley Book

  28. 4 out of 5

    Aleen ~Lampshade Reader

    Also posted on lampshadereader.com Received a review copy from NetGalley. A truly unique take on the world of Pride and Prejudice, with Mary being the main character. Imaginative and different, take all of your preconceived notions about P&P and hold them back; don't bring them with you while reading this. If you are a fan of P&P (like I am), you will be shocked by the liberties the author took with all of the beloved characters. There's already a lot of controversy about this book and all Also posted on lampshadereader.com Received a review copy from NetGalley. A truly unique take on the world of Pride and Prejudice, with Mary being the main character. Imaginative and different, take all of your preconceived notions about P&P and hold them back; don't bring them with you while reading this. If you are a fan of P&P (like I am), you will be shocked by the liberties the author took with all of the beloved characters. There's already a lot of controversy about this book and all of the negative press that it's receiving. This actually made me want to read the novel even more and I'm glad I did. Embrace this fresh new look on the lives of these fictional characters.   I had to mull a little bit on my review for this story. I have to say Mary is the least likeable characters from Pride and Prejudice and I always was a bit curious to know her point of view on certain events. While she still did not come off as extremely likeable, I did appreciate the certain realism it brought to the beloved original story. The other sisters (besides Jane) came off as more of a caricature of their original personalities. Lydia and Kitty were more annoying and mean, and Lizzie was not as witty as she should be; she actually came off as selfish.   This story is, after all, about Mary, so my sympathies were always with her character. She easily fell in love and quite easily fell out of love too. Perhaps it's my growing cynical nature, but I enjoyed the glimpse of the after HEA and how it was not sunshine and daisies for some. Personally, I enjoyed this different take on the classic. It added more grit and seriousness (in certain parts). While I still prefer the original story, I do believe this brought something entirely different to the table.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Becky S

    If you go into this expecting it to be like the original book, then you won't like it. Nice twist on a classic by spinning off of it and developing another sister. Go into it with an open mind and you'll enjoy it for what it is.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I really liked this book. While I am sure that Austen fans will be split on the book as it definitely upsets the fairy tale ending to Pride and Prejudice, I was fascinated to see the transpiring events through Mary's eyes. Chen's in-depth look at a socially awkward girl who never quite fit in with her family and social circle was well-done, and I enjoyed the surprise of seeing Mary bond with Darcy during and after Austen's novel. Most readers would be able to relate and connect with Mary in some I really liked this book. While I am sure that Austen fans will be split on the book as it definitely upsets the fairy tale ending to Pride and Prejudice, I was fascinated to see the transpiring events through Mary's eyes. Chen's in-depth look at a socially awkward girl who never quite fit in with her family and social circle was well-done, and I enjoyed the surprise of seeing Mary bond with Darcy during and after Austen's novel. Most readers would be able to relate and connect with Mary in some aspect as Mary grapples with her feelings of inferiority and insecurity when she compares herself to her more outgoing sisters, and applaud her efforts to live her life on her own terms.

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