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The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel by Pamela Mingle

A tradition in our household for as long as I can remember is stockings at Christmas with at least one great book in them.  Despite the fact that Elizabeth and I are now in our mid-late 20s, our mom always has a stocking for us Christmas morning, and that stocking always contains a book that usually doesn’t make it to December 26 without at least a few pages read between the craziness of multiple family meals, visits, presents, games and (if we’re lucky) naps.

This year, our literary mama got me The Pursuit of Mary Bennet.  As an English teacher and Jane Austen addict, I gobbled the book up.  It was finished in a matter of days and I found myself (as is the case more often than I wish to reveal) confused.  Did I hate that book?  I read it in 36 hours, but I couldn’t say that I loved it.  So, forgive me, as I make this blog the comfy plush couch of literary psychoanalysis.

Pros: There is not enough Jane Austen in the world – and this brings me back into the world of one of my favorite novels, Pride and Prejudice.  It’s diverting – despite my confusion, it was a book that was fun to read and the pages practically turned themselves!  In fact, had the story not come with such big shoes to fill, it probably wouldn’t have thrown me into this confused state where I currently reside.  Finally, when I finished, I put the book on my SSR shelf and have had several girls interested in reading it.  Do I wish they were reading actual Jane Austen?  Of course.  But they’re not quite there yet, and if this is the tool that gets them to a love for Austen even a fraction as deep as mine – I say good work, Pamela Mingle!

Cons: No one (AND I MEAN NO ONE) can ever come close to the brilliant writing of the queen herself, Jane Austen.  While it was interesting seeing her characters brought to life again, I couldn’t help but feel that Austen would be cringing if she read them brought to life in exactly that way.  While some things were impressively historical accurate, it was a little jarring to hear a mix of Regency dialogue with non-regency narration.  Finally, Mary Bennet.  I’m glad she got her moment in the sun to become something other than a parody and embarrassment to her family… but come on, Austen-lovers!  Can Mary be anything other than the painfully awkward and unaware character she is in Pride and Prejudice?

To conclude, I give this book 2.5 stars.  It was too entertaining to be just a plain 2, but I doubt I’ll read it again.  I will, however, be dusting off my copy of Pride and Prejudice.  Reading this book made me long to be back in that Austen Regency-world!  ★★ 1/2

– Becca


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