Historical Fiction Reviews Women's Fiction

Book Review | The Other Bennet Sister

October 15, 2020
The Other Bennet Sister book on top of three Pride and Prejudice books on a white chair with bookshelf in background

By Janice Hadlow

Be still my Pride and Prejudice loving heart. If you are an avid lover of all things Pride and Prejudice, then this book is for you!

Goodreads Description:

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.

The Bennet sister that everyone forgets finally gets her story.

When we think of Pride and Prejudice, a lot of us automatically associate those words with “Elizabeth Bennet” or “Mr. Darcy.” All of the Bennet sisters have their part in the Jane Austen story: Lizzy and Jane, Kitty and Lydia – heck, even Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have sounding voices. But the sister that’s mostly forgotten, and sometimes left out, is Mary.

The Other Bennet Sister follows Mary’s journey through the beloved Pride and Prejudice and beyond. The reader is enraptured by her quiet boldness and vulnerability. The first part of this book can read as a P&P rewrite however I felt it was important for Hadlow to bring the reader up-to-speed on Mary’s character (as we rarely saw her in the classic novel). The second part of the book is after all of the Bennet sisters are married and living their lives – all but Mary. Watching Mary navigate through feelings of loneliness and self-worth was brilliantly executed. Many times I wanted to reach into the book and just hug Mary; I was just rooting for her!

But through it all, we see Mary’s independence and self-confidence begin to shine through. The ending was absolute perfection. Well done, Janice Hadlow, for a beautiful story.

Sometimes the very best stuff can seem quite plain, until one examines it closely. It is only then that one sees its true quality.

Janice Hadlow, The Other Bennet Sister

PUBLICATION DETAILS: Henry Holt and Co.; 31 March 2020; 480 pages; Historical Fiction, Romance, Retellings

Click here to purchase your copy of this book.

Looking for more Historical Fiction books? Check out my other reviews.

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