Mary Bennet, the overlooked and unlikable fifth sister in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, learns to see herself and others clearly in Hadlow’s spectacular debut novel (after A Royal Experiment: The Private Life of George III). Born without the beauty her mother prizes or the wit needed to win her father’s attention, Mary takes refuge in books and study. By the time her sisters marry and her father dies, Mary’s self-esteem, optimism, and trust in others have vanished. Then a happy stay with her aunt and uncle Gardiner in London offers a new perspective, suggesting that she must value herself in order to be valued by others. Naturally for an Austen-inspired novel, with self-awareness comes the possibility of true love. Writing in prose with the crisp liveliness of Austen’s own, Hadlow remains true to the characterizations in Pride and Prejudice without letting them limit her. Mary’s emergence from priggish insecurity is beautifully imagined; Austen’s smarmy Mr. Collins gets a surprising but convincing rehabilitation, the Gardiners are joyously fleshed out, and London, never visited in the Austen canon, comes vividly to life. Equal to the best Austen spin-offs, including Jo Baker’s Longbourn, this will delight Janeites as well as lovers of nuanced female coming-of-age tales. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
NAMED A BEST BOOK OF 2020 BY LIBRARY JOURNAL, NPR, AND CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
“An immersive and engaging new version of a familiar world . . . at once true to the source material and to life . . . Hadlow’s great achievement is to shift our sympathies so completely that . . . it’s difficult not to race through those final pages, desperate to know if [Mary] will, after all, be allowedwill allow herselfa happy ending.”
Jo Baker, The Guardian
“[A] winner. . . . Mary imparts [wisdom] to Hadlow’s readers.”
The New York Times
“If you thought Mary, the nerdy, plain sibling in Pride & Prejudice, was too dull to warrant her own novel, think again: In Hadlow’s imaginative retelling, the sister with no prospects finally gets some respectand perhaps even a guy.”
–O, The Oprah Magazine
“The Other Bennet Sister goes beyond Pride and Prejudice to imagine how the Marys of the world might find happiness . . . A captivating and heartening story.”
“Spirited [and] sure to please . . . Hadlow proves adept at delivering plot twists and social commentary deserving of her mentor.”
The Star Tribune
"Debut novelist Hadlow manages it with aplomb.... [writing] with sensitivity, emotional clarity, and a quiet edge of social criticism Austen would have relished. Entertaining and thoroughly engrossing."
Kirkus (starred review)
“Absolutely magical. . . . It is a marvel that The Other Bennet Sister is [Hadlow’s] first novel. Her writing is elegant and wry, the story wise and engrossing. . . . [You'll] be surprised that you aren't actually reading Jane Austen.”
BookPage (starred review)
"[A] spectacular debut. . . . Writing in prose with the crisp liveliness of Austen's own, Hadlow remains true to the characterizations in Pride and Prejudice without letting them limit her. . . . This will delight Janeites as well as lovers of nuanced female coming-of-age tales."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Delightful. . . . This is a charming and enchanting story . . . [that readers of Pride and Prejudice] will love, as will historical fiction readers looking for intelligent heroines with agency and heart."
Library Journal (starred review)
“Satisfyingly evocative of [Pride and Prejudice] and yet strikingly contemporary. . . . Hadlow grafts a contemporary coming-of-age story onto a literary masterpiece . . . building upon what Austen had achievedwriting boldly and honestly about women’s lives.”
The Christian Science Monitor
"A touching redemption of one of the least-liked characters in Jane Austen's novels. . . . [Perfect for] any fan of the original."
Portland Review of Books
"Gorgeous. . . . [The Other Bennet Sister] is a wonderfully, warm, comforting readperfect on a winter’s night."
The Sun (UK)
"Impeccably researched, this lifts Mary from obscurity, as she breaks out of her mother's world and follows her own path."
“Heartfelt. . . . A triumphant novel that is determined, romantic, and hopeful.”
"A heroine that even Ms. Austen would approve of. A treat forand for anyone else who likes their fiction to have sense and sensibility."
Daisy Goodwin, New York Times bestselling author of The American Heiress and Victoria
"Jane fans rejoice! I loved this thoroughly estimable, worthy homage to Austen. Exceptional storytelling and a true delight."
Helen Simonson, author of the New York Times bestselling novels Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and The Summer Before the War
DEBUT The "other Bennet sister" in this delightful semi-sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is Mary, the plain middle sister between the beautiful Jane and Lizzy and the pretty, flighty, and irresponsible Kitty and Lydia. But instead of the moralizing and slightly censorious spinster of the original, this Mary is shy and withdrawn, deeply wounded by her mother's constant comparisons between her and her sparkling sisters. Instead of turning into a prig, Mary takes her life into her own hands as is possible for her time and finds her own way to love and happiness. This is a charming and enchanting story featuring one of the overlooked characters of a beloved classic. While the cast feels very much as remembered from the original, Mary comes into her own after being browbeaten by her overbearing mother at every turn. In adulthood she manages to find the inner fortitude to make her own path once she emerges from her family's shadow. VERDICT Readers with fond but not necessarily exhaustive memories of Pride and Prejudice will love this story, as will historical fiction readers looking for intelligent heroines with agency and heart who belong to their time and place without quite fitting in.—Marlene Harris, Reading Reality, LLC, Duluth, GA
Another reboot of Jane Austen?!? Hadlow pulls it off in a smart, heartfelt novel devoted to bookish Mary, middle of the five sisters in Pride and Prejudice.
Part 1 recaps Pride and Prejudice through Mary's eyes, climaxing with the humiliating moment when she sings poorly at a party and older sister Elizabeth goads their father to cut her off in front of everyone. The sisters' friend Charlotte, who marries the unctuous Mr. Collins after Elizabeth rejects him, emerges as a pivotal character; her conversations with Mary are even tougher-minded here than those with Elizabeth depicted by Austen. In Part 2, two years later, Mary observes on a visit that Charlotte is deferential but remote with her husband; she forms an intellectual friendship with the neglected and surprisingly nice Mr. Collins that leads to Charlotte's asking Mary to leave. In Part 3, Mary finds refuge in London with her kindly aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner. Mrs. Gardiner is the second motherly woman, after Longbourn housekeeper Mrs. Hill, to try to undo the psychic damage wrought by Mary's actual mother, shallow, status-obsessed Mrs. Bennet, by building up her confidence and buying her some nice clothes (funded by guilt-ridden Lizzy). Sure enough, two suitors appear: Tom Hayward, a poetry-loving lawyer who relishes Mary's intellect but urges her to also express her feelings; and William Ryder, charming but feckless inheritor of a large fortune, whom naturally Mrs. Bennet loudly favors. It takes some maneuvering to orchestrate the estrangement of Mary and Tom, so clearly right for each other, but debut novelist Hadlow manages it with aplomb in a bravura passage describing a walking tour of the Lake District rife with seething complications furthered by odious Caroline Bingley. Her comeuppance at Mary's hands marks the welcome final step in our heroine's transformation from a self-doubting wallflower to a vibrant, self-assured woman who deserves her happy ending. Hadlow traces that progression with sensitivity, emotional clarity, and a quiet edge of social criticism Austen would have relished.
Entertaining and thoroughly engrossing.