In the original Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet is portrayed as a rather prim, bookish type and not much of the story is dedicated to expanding her character otherwise. Presumably, it was this that motivated first time author Jennifer Paynter to write her rendition titled Mary Bennet.
The book retells the story of Pride and Prejudice from Mary’s viewpoint. The most enjoyable feature is that while the language is in keeping with that of the 1800s, it does not so strictly adhere to it as to be a stumbling block.
The original Pride and Prejudice is a gorgeous read but it is more challenging than modern literature due to the relatively foreign verb formations and sentence structures. Mary Bennet is written in a way that bridges both modern language with the speech that predominated in the time that Pride and Prejudice was originally written.
As a result, the experience of reading Mary Bennet will likely prove to be easier and more enjoyable for the readers of today. Despite toning down the extremities of the language differences, the story and characters of Pride and Prejudice are immediately recognisable. The modern changes and differing viewpoint have done nothing to compromise the original – they have enhanced it.
Despite the slight shock of rediscovering the city of Longbourn in a novel without Jane Austin’s name inscribed on the cover, the story of Mary Bennet is an exciting one. The novel provides validation for the actions and demeanour of Mary and in doing so, provides a whole new insight into the world that we’ve only ever seen through the eyes of her sisters.
Paynter has done a stellar job of ensuring that the novel reads precisely as it should.
All the pivotal events of Pride and Prejudice unfold again, however, they are written in a different, more sequential order, which is just another reason why this book flows so well. The events, language, characters and scenes are instantly recognisable and convincing. It is remarkable that this novel was written by someone other than Jane Austin herself – that’s how well these characters are rewritten.
For avid fans of Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet is a wonderful opportunity to rediscover the story in a whole new light. It is the sequel that never was and when you’re finished, you’ll be hoping for Paynter to keep going and write another one, (or six).