Skip to main content

Mary B: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice by Katherine J. Chen: A Book Review

Mary B: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice
Author: Katherine J. Chen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: July 24, 2018
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: The overlooked middle sister in Jane Austen’s 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.

      My Review: Mary B is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice told from the perspective of Elizabeth’s sister, Mary. Mary is often overlooked in the family because of her plainness. Mary wishes that she was beautiful like her sisters and hopes that she can find happiness. She believes she has found it when she falls for the plain, bookish Mr. Collins. She finds that they both are similar. However Mr. Collins breaks her heart because he is not attracted to her appearance. It is not until a year later when Elizabeth invites Mary to Pemberley that Mary might truly find her own happiness and independence.

     This was one of my most disappointing books of 2018! Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels of all time, and Mary is a character that I found most sympathetic because she is often neglected. When I got an ARC copy of this book, I quickly dove into it hoping it would become one of 2018's best reads. I read this in one sitting in a little over four hours. This was not because I enjoyed it. Instead, it was like a watching a train wreck from which I just could not look away.

     Part 1 of Mary B was the best part of the novel. This part was a faithful retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I loved how the novel explored Mary’s unrequited love for Mr. Collins. I could see why Mr. Collins appealed to her. They were both the same. They had a love for history and books. They desired to live a humble and simple life. It is utterly heartbreaking when Mr. Collins rejects Mary because of her looks. I could understand Mary’s pain when she believes she will never love again.

     When Elizabeth and Jane are married is when the novel goes downhill. From then on, I could scarcely recognize any of my beloved characters. Charlotte, who is nice and sensible, become a vain, harsh, and overbearing woman. She is mean to Mary. The amiable and good Colonel Fitzwilliam becomes a brash drunk who is looking to marry a rich heiress. He is more evil than Mr. Wickham. I was horrified when the author describes Mary’s nightly rendezvous with Colonel Fitzwilliam. It was so out of character for Mary. 

     What really made me sick to my stomach was how Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy were portrayed. Elizabeth was characterized as a selfish woman who married Mr. Darcy only for his money! This was not the Elizabeth Bennet that I know who would marry for love! Darcy was equally appalling! In Pride and Prejudice, we witnessed the depths of Mr. Darcy’s feelings for Elizabeth! We smiled when Darcy tries to resist his growing attraction for Elizabeth. We cried when Darcy confesses his love for Elizabeth, and we swooned when Elizabeth’s rejection makes Darcy a better man. However, in Mary B, it is not even a year into his marriage to Elizabeth that he instead falls for Mary! This was really the most disappointing aspect of the book! I love Mary as a character, but it is a disservice of the Austen novel because we went through so many emotions for Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to have a happy marriage. It was just so out of character for Mr. Darcy to love Mary right after he got married.

     Overall, this was a mediocre and frustrating read for me. The characters are different from their Pride and Prejudice counterparts. There were some aspects that I did like about the novel. I like how Mary strives to become a novelist. Still, the cons heavily outweigh the pros. I would not recommend this novel to any Austenite, especially those whose favorite hero is Mr. Darcy. There are much better books written about Mary Bennet. One book that I found particularly enjoyable is The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle. Thus, if you are an Austenite, I suggest you skip Mary B and read Pamela Mingle’s novel instead.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


Popular posts from this blog

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post by Allison Pataki: A Book Review

The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Post Author: Allison Pataki Genre: Historical Fiction Publisher: Ballantine Release Date: February 15, 2022 Pages: 381 Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review. Synopsis: Mrs. Post, the President and First Lady are here to see you. . . . So begins another average evening for Marjorie Merriweather Post. Presidents have come and gone, but she has hosted them all. Growing up in the modest farmlands of Battle Creek, Michigan, Marjorie was inspired by a few simple rules: always think for yourself, never take success for granted, and work hard—even when deemed American royalty, even while covered in imperial diamonds. Marjorie had an insatiable drive to live and love and to give more than she got. From crawling through Moscow warehouses to rescue the Tsar’s treasures to outrunning the Nazis in London, from serving the homeless of the Great Depression to entertaining Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Hollywood’s biggest stars, Marjorie Merriweath

Tituba: The Intentional Witch of Salem by Dave Tamanini: A Book Review

Tituba: The Intentional Witch of Salem Author: Dave Tamanini Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy Publisher: David F Tamanini Release Date: 2020 Pages: 317 Source: Publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Synopsis: If you love historical fiction... come revisit Salem's terror in this provocative new telling of enslaved Tituba, no longer a caricature, but a fully human woman with magical powers.      Come! Let Tituba cast its spell with a unique and tantalizing tale that explores the wild emotions driving accusations of witchcraft in 1692.      A Promise and a Hope      Enslaved Tituba has been faithful to a promise to her dying mama in Africa. She has appeased the masters from Barbados to Boston to Salem and waited for her magic.      A Mother’s Agony      When Tituba’s only son dies trying to escape slavery, her life changes forever. After enduring the crush only a mother can feel, she rages and turns to vengeance.      Witches Tear into Salem      The villagers see wi

Blog Tour: Marie Antoinette’s World: Intrigue, Infidelity, And Adultery In Versailles by Will Bashor

Marie Antoinette’s World: Intrigue, Infidelity, And Adultery In Versailles [history/biographical nonfiction] Release date: June 15, 2020 Postponed due to Covid-19: July 30, 2020 at Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Hardcover and ebook, 320 pages Author’s page | Goodreads SYNOPSIS Synopsis: This riveting book explores the little-known intimate life of Marie Antoinette and her milieu in a world filled with intrigue, infidelity, adultery, and sexually transmitted diseases. Will Bashor reveals the intrigue and debauchery of the Bourbon kings from Louis XIII to Louis XV, which were closely intertwined with the expansion of Versailles from a simple hunting lodge to a luxurious and intricately ordered palace. It soon became a retreat for scandalous conspiracies and rendezvous—all hidden from the public eye.       When Marie Antoinette arrived, she was quickly drawn into a true viper’s nest, encouraged by her imprudent entourage. Bashor shows that her often thoughtless, fantas