I’ve loved Pride and Prejudice for many years and can be something of a purist, generally speaking. It has meant that I tend to avoid any retellings of stories I love or sequels by different authors.
However, the temptation became too much when I heard several glowing reviews from reliable sources for The Other Bennet Sister, and I purchased the book on a whim. Thankfully my sources were right and it has been such a wonderful experience reading this book.
The first part of the book is set during Pride and Prejudice but the rest follows on from the marriages of Jane and Lizzy. It was such a joy to revisit some of my favourite characters such as Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
However, this book is primarily about Mary Bennet. My opinion changed about some of the characters, whether by suggestion or interpretation. Mr. Collins becomes pitiful rather than irksome and Mrs. Bennet’s selfish nature can no longer be hidden by thoughts that she may only want what is best for her children. Hadlow brings to light just how cruelly Mary is treated despite her desperate attempts to fit in and please others.
Watching Mary come into her own and become her own person has filled a gap that Pride and Prejudice leaves behind. Hadlow’s writing means that the reader becomes so intimately acquainted with Mary that we feel her every sadness and hope as she goes on her journey.
My only minor criticism of this book is that we lose that intimacy towards the end and Mary becomes more distant, although I do also feel that is a reflection of Mary becoming who she wants to be, she is no longer ours to watch over.
Hadlow has done Austen’s work proud. The Other Bennet Sister is a stunning and absorbing read of which I would have gladly read more.
Laura J. Roach 5/5*
The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
9781509842025 Pan Macmillan Mantle Hardback January 2020