Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
I can’t resist a well written book that takes a less prominent, somewhat maligned character from one of Austen’s novels and convincingly rescues her (it’s usually a her) from the shadows with a plausible alteration of manners and a fitting happy ending. On all these accounts, The Pursuit of Mary Bennet delights.
Since Lizzie and Jane have gotten married Mary Bennet is much improved, though it took soul searching and hard work, and when upset she sometimes slips back into old patterns. Her singing is still atrocious, but at least now she knows it, and Darcy has thoughtfully provided her with lessons on the pianoforte so her playing is both pleasing and heartfelt. Mary still loves to read, but with Lizzie gone she has been encouraged by her lonely father to switch from moralizing tomes to history, philosophy, and poetry. She hasn’t lost her tendency to forthright speech, but with more life experience her judgements have softened so she's no longer a sermonizing prig.
It’s of course impossible to match Austen’s wonderful prose, but author Pamela Mingle made the smart and--I think--unusual choice of writing this Pride and Prejudice sequel in the first person, which both removes some of the comparison and takes the reader straight past Mary’s sometimes stiff exterior and into her heart. She also keeps Lizzy off stage more than the other Bennets, another wise decision because it’s very hard to capture Lizzie’s lively, intelligent wit, and when authors try the results are usually disappointing, at least to me. Mary Bennet she captures definitively. Mary’s character growth makes sense, and it’s that hard won betterment that is challenged when plot circumstances (rash actions by Lydia and the uncertain attentions of a potential suitor) throw her life and sentiments into disorder. Reading The Pursuit of Mary Bennet was a treat.
I read an advanced review copy of this book provided by the publisher, the opinions in this review are all mine.