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The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow

Pride and Prejudice is one of the most popular novels of all time, and this new novel, The Other Bennet Sister, imagines the life of Mary, the middle of the five Bennet girls. So in the original novel, Mary is the plainest of them all, prim and pious, with no redeeming features, she is unloved and seemingly unlovable. But this new novel shows another side to Mary, and the ugly duckling emerges from the shadows into a woman with choices of her own.

In The Other Bennet Sister, Mary is an introvert in a family of extroverts. Her mother is disappointed in her, as she values beauty above everything else. Mary is fearful of her father’s sharp tongue, and she has little in common with her sisters. So it’s little wonder that Mary takes refuge in her books. One by one her sisters marry, but Mary seems destined to remain single and live out her life in the family home. So this part of the novel is a retelling of the events in Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of Mary, but it is done in a way that enhances scenes from the original novel.

After moving from house to house after the death of her father, Mary finally settles at her Aunt’s house in London. There she gains confidence and self-worth, and she soon attracts the attentions of two suitors. I can’t say too much about what happens next, but this is a wonderful re-telling of a classic novel, and Mary Bennet emerges as a heroine in her own right.

I think fans of Jane Austin will really enjoy this novel. The author maintains the style and feel of the period, so its got a wonderful sense of time and place. It manages to be wonderful homage to the original novel, as well as being a delightful new story in its own right. At its heart, The Other Bennett Sister, is a life-affirming tale of a young woman finding her place in the world – a storyline very much in tune with Jane Austin’s original.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Macmillan Publishers