The Book Club
Mary Bennet - "In the wake of my sisters' weddings, an unusual peace fell on Longbourn. It was not so much that the place was quieter - Lydia's absence had already brought that about - it was more that by marrying off three of her daughters, my mother's purpose in life had been dulled,"
This week I was very lucky to receive a copy of a recently released book, Mary Bennet by Jennifer Paynter. Jennifer Paynter is an Australian author, from Sydney. Paynter has written two, well received stage plays and various short stories. Mary Bennet is her first novel, and what a great way to start!
Having been released in time for the 100th anniversary, this is a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice - through the eyes of middle sister Mary. As you will remember, Mary was the quiet, religious "odd one" out of the Bennet sisters. She lacked the poise and beauty of Jane, the witt of Elizabeth and the spirit and personality of Lydia and Kitty. Mary was often left out by her sisters and bore the brunt of spitfull quips from her parents. In fact it has been said that "The unfortunate Mary is the only one amoung Jane Austen's characters who never gets a fair deal from the author at all". So it is particularly refreshing to read this tale told looking through Mary's eyes.
Jennifer Paynter shows such a compassion for this character. She makes it very easy for the reader to feel sympathy for a girl whose biggest fault was not being born a boy. From the day of her birth her gender was a disappointment, and following in the footsteps of Jane and Elizabeth seems to be too big a task for this shy, awkward child, which leads to her often being overlooked. The story follows Mary growing up in her sisters' shadows, while offering a different view of the family, their friends and the dynamics of their interactions. Mary watches her sisters fall in love and marry off one by one and eventually finds love herself in Peter Bushell. Mary must then overcome her own versions of pride and prejudice, as the Bushells are not of equal standing to that of the Bennets. Mary eventually follows her love to the penal colony of New South Wales.
All of the favourite characters from Pride and Prejudice are there, although sometimes represented in a slightly different way then what we are used to, given Mary's own perceptions and opinions. Paynter has also introduced some new ones Cassandra and Ruth being my favourites. And while keeping the language formal and in style with the period, Jennifer Paynter has still written the story in a way that it is very easy to read, especially for those who find period pieces difficult. I also thought it was a true delight that Mr Darcy - arguably one of the sexiest, most charming men in literature - is still one of the sexiest and most charming men in literature!
I also must admit that Austen's classic is one of my favourite stories and I have read every re-telling I have been able to get my hands on (and there are quite a few out there!), so I jumped at the opportunity to read this one. And I am glad that I did, it is clever, insightful and well told, and it brings a previously overlooked character to life in a lovely way. Anyone who has enjoyed Pride and Prejudice will enjoy this take on it, and I urge you to pick up a copy.
You might also like "Pride, Prejudice and Zombies" and "Dawn of the Dreadfulls" both by Seth Grahame-Smith - a hilarious take on the classic which sees the Bennet sisters training to battle the undead as well as catch a husband! Or "Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D James - this is the story of Darcy and Elizabeth's "happy ever after", what becomes of them after they marry?
I hope you have all got your hands on a copy of "Fifty Shades of Grey" E.L James' best seller and our book for May? I had to go to three different stores before I could find a copy as everywhere was sold out!! Holy cow, May's discussion is going to be a good one!!!
Until then, happy reading.
P.S Also a big HAPPY MOTHERS DAY to all of you. I hope Sunday is a day for you to rest and be indulged (or to at least receive extra kisses and cuddles!)