“Ingenious . . . Mary B is a tribute not just to [Jane] Austen but to defiant women of any era.”—USA Today
The overlooked middle sister in Pride and Prejudice casts off her prim exterior and takes center stage in this fresh retelling of the classic novel.
What is to be done with Mary Bennet? She possesses neither the beauty of her eldest sister, Jane, nor the high-spirited wit of second-born Lizzy. Even compared to her frivolous younger siblings, Kitty and Lydia, Mary knows she is lacking in the ways that matter for single, not-so-well-to-do women in nineteenth-century England who must secure their futures through the finding of a husband. As her sisters wed, one by one, Mary pictures herself growing old, a spinster with no estate to run or children to mind, dependent on the charity of others. At least she has the silent rebellion and secret pleasures of reading and writing to keep her company.
But even her fictional creations are no match for the scandal, tragedy, and romance that eventually visit Mary’s own life. In Mary B, readers are transported beyond the center of the ballroom to discover that wallflowers are sometimes the most intriguing guests at the party. Beneath Mary’s plain appearance and bookish demeanor simmers an inner life brimming with passion, humor, and imagination—and a voice that demands to be heard.
Set before, during, and after the events of Pride and Prejudice, Katherine J. Chen’s vividly original debut novel pays homage to a beloved classic while envisioning a life that is difficult to achieve in any era: that of a truly independent woman.
Praise for Mary B
“The best part about Mary’s star turn is that it bears little relation to the fates of her sisters. She’s a simmering, churning, smart woman determined to concoct an independent life.”—The Washington Post
“Pride and Prejudice’s beloved story is re-spun through the eyes of mousy, overlooked—and now feminist—middle child, Mary.”—Family Circle
“A new, wholly original perspective on the classic . . . Chen’s novel gives fans and non-fans a heroine who seeks a rich, independent life, in spite of the limits society has placed on her. This is the ultimate Austen adaptation for our time.”—Real Simple
“Watching [Mary] come into her own is a delight.”—People
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Katherine J. Chen is a graduate of Princeton University. This is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "Mary B: A Novel"
Copyright © 2018 Katherine J. Chen.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The most telling thing I can say about Chen's writing is that it suggests insecurity. Having always identified with Mary Bennet I hoped to read about her hidden depths. Instead Chen, whom I suspect also identified with Mary, uplifted her at the expense of nearly everyone else. She destroys Darcy and Elizabeth - Elizabeth, who claimed that only deep love would persuade her to marry. The back flap of the book informs the reader that this is Chen's first novel. This is evidenced by the fact that despite the passable imitation of Austen's tone and style in the first part of the book, she employs the trope of having Mary become a writer herself, littering the prose with a ficticious self insert that Chen would have done better to develop into an origial historical bodice-ripper, at least. I hate-read through the entire thing, hoping that the ending would make up for these faults, but it left me feeling bitter and disappointed and I returned it the next day. It is not a book I would take pleasure in owning and rereading.
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley and Random House for my honest review. While there are a lot of Pride and Prejudice retellings and sequels, few give Mary Bennet a voice, and for that reason Mary B was a must read for me.. I really enjoyed Part One, which covers some events from Pride and Prejudice as seen through Mary's eyes without retelling the whole novel. In P&P we all sense that Mary really would be the perfect match for Mr. Collins and in this narrative, Mary reveals her attraction to Mr. Collins and her interactions with him behind the scenes. Also we find out what precipitated her memorable performance at the Netherfield Ball. And we get a look at Mary's first impressions of Darcy. As much as I loved Part One however, I was disappointed in the rest of the novel; after Elizabeth and Darcy marry. After that point, for the most part, the characters no longer seemed to be true to the essence of those Austen created. I found it hard to accept their actions in keeping to the spirit of Austen. There was no witty, humorous, dialogue. And there were more intimate details given than I needed to know. But, I did like that Mary was an authoress and voiced her independence. Setting the plot aside, I thought the author was very talented. She artfully allowed Mary to mature as the narrative progressed.. In Part One, Mary is quite naïve, but by the end she speaks with self assurance, which is satisfying. The whole idea of an Austen sequel is to allow the author to explore the roads not taken or to peer into the "happily ever after" as they see fit, and the author definitely put a new spin on these characters, However, as an Austenite, I'm happiest when character portrayals are true to Jane's creation.
I wasn't sure whether to give this a 3 or a 4. Unfortunately, there is no 3.5, but that would have been my actual rating. I had heard the author speak and was intrigued about the premise of the book. I really enjoyed finding out about Mary's feelings about her position in the Bennett family and her view on some of the action that takes place in Pride and Prejudice. I liked seeing her develop into her own person. What I did not like was the turn in Darcy and Elizabeth's relationship. It almost seemed to have been written out of jealousy of Elizabeth and revenge for her being her father's favorite. If the characterization of Elizabeth was true, I think she would have gone ahead and married Mr. Collins. While I enjoyed getting to know Mary, I was not happy with the last third of the book. This may be because I would like to keep the happy ending of Darcy and Elizabeth and I think Mary's story could have been told without ruining this.
As a thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced readers copy I shall give an honest review of this novel. Coming into this novel I knew it would be a retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I have heard of many retellings, or continuations but have not read any. I was intrigued to learn that it would be from the well-mannered Bennet sister Mary. This middle child had some moments in the original novel, for we have an idea of who she is but really do not know her but from Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennet’s perspective. In this novel, her perspective rains supreme and we learn what occurred before and during Pride and Prejudice from her point of view. As well are told future events past the end of Austen’s original novel. The novel's author presented material found in Austen’s novel and embellished thereafter. Katherine J. Chen’s tone was approachable and relaxing. I found her style to be similar to Austen’s which was amazing to hear while reading. There were moments that had me gasping out loud, and others which made me laugh. The characterization of its lead character was enjoyable to read and found myself empathizing with Mary and having new feelings for Elizabeth. If you want to know what I am talking about read the novel. You will enjoy it if you loved the original Pride and Prejudice, and have merely another perspective to the world that Jane Austen has created. I highly recommend this novel to fans of Jane Austen and historical fiction. I give this novel four out of five stars.
Prepare to change your opinion about the ladies of Longbourn. Mary Bennett, the middle Bennett child, is typically used as an example in high school English literature exercises about flat, static characters. Katherine Chen's Mary Bennett is anything but static and flat, and the authoress takes the reader upon a journey through Mary's rich inner life. Mary's voice is fresh and lively, sounding like an Austen character and Regency Era lady, and there are but few times an expression or two might take the reader "out" of the narrative. Mary B took me back to Longbourn and immersed me in the 3-D world Jane Austen created two centuries ago, with five-senses descriptions and in particular, the literature available to Mary. As someone who enjoys the "story behind the story," reading about the events of Pride and Prejudice (and beyond) from the perspective of the underdog, the near-forgotten middle child, was a treat. Chen believably fills in the details of Mary's small world, and her relationship to some of the major characters of P&P clicks neatly into place with the personality clues left by Jane Austen. Perhaps most importantly for the modern female reader, Mary B is a story of young woman seeking her independence and using her remarkable talents to...well, you'll just have to read it!
Katherine J. Chen, Author of "Mary B" An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice, writes her novel on Mary Bennet the middle sister. The author deals with "What if"about Mary using a unique and fresh perspective. In the original "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austin, there is very little input about Mary. The other sisters overshadow Mary, and with their mother's aggressive approach to marrying well, is basically ignored. In Katherine J. Chen's novel, Mary is set stage and center. The Genres for this novel are Fiction, Women's Fiction, with a touch of Historical Fiction. The story takes place in England in the nineteen century, and is set in the past, present and future around the other Bennet sisters' stories. At this time in history, women's roles were to marry to someone well established. It is a male dominated society. Men who had lesser titles also wanted to marry well. This was a time was it was important for the wealthy to have heirs, and often the real estate was left to the nearest male relative. The author describes Mary as complex and complicated. The sisters appear to be jealous, immature, selfish , and at times mean. Some of the men in the story seem to be very shallow, and insecure.There are betrayals, and false promises. Mary has been regarded as a "wallflower". She doesn't like balls, or groups. Often it is like Mary is invisible, and her family is not sure if she is there or not. Family and others often joke or put Mary down. Mary's escape is reading books. Soon Mary starts to write books. My favorite part of the story is when Mary seems to be "modernized" and more independent and seeks her own path. What is to become of Mary Bennet? I would recommend this book to readers that like fiction and historical fiction of this time period. Although this book is referenced to "Pride and Prejudice" it is a stand alone.I received an ARC from NetGalley for my honest review..