Saturday, September 1, 2018

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

About the book:
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.

My thoughts:
This beautifully written novel brings the plainest Bennet sister, Mary, to life. If you've ever wondered how Mary felt about being considered the "plain one" and watching her sisters be chased after by men while she hugged the wall, this book tells it all. Written in first person from Mary's standpoint, readers find that the bookish, quiet ones are often the best company. But this was a difficult period in history for plain girls, when a woman's sole purpose in life was to marry well and produce an heir (or a household of heirs). What's a girl to do when the men don't call and she has no means of independence? Mary finds a solution, through much trial-and-error, and also finds that beauty isn't a guarantee of happiness after witnessing her sisters' tribulations. Mary makes many mistakes in her quest to be loved, but it's when she's most herself that she begins to see that she has much to offer and is a valuable person in her own right. You'll never see the Bennet sisters the same way again after reading Mary B.

Disclosure: I borrowed this book from the library. This post contains my Amazon affiliate link, and I will make a small commission on purchases made through my link.

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