Mary Bennet, the overlooked fifth sister in Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice is the star of this retelling, revealing a much deeper—and likeable—character than the Bennet family ever realized.
In The Other Bennet Sister, Hadlow builds an immersive and engaging new version of a familiar world; her approach feels at once true to the source material and to life ... in Hadlow’s Mary we recognise a more familiar figure: self-sabotaging, low on self-esteem, struggling to get through the day while others seem to sail effortlessly by. Hadlow’s great achievement is to shift our sympathies so completely that when happiness becomes a possibility for Mary, it’s difficult not to race through those final pages, desperate to know if she will, after all, be allowed—will allow herself—a happy ending.
Hadlow gives us a book that is satisfyingly evocative of the earlier novel and yet strikingly contemporary ... this time we see everything through Mary’s eyes. Hadlow paints her as a far more sympathetic and understandable character ... As her book diverges from the original, Hadlow grafts a contemporary coming-of-age story onto a literary masterpiece and she does it in a manner that is not only faithful to the original, but also respectful. She builds upon what Austen had achieved—writing boldly and honestly about women’s lives ... Hadlow captures Austen’s voice ... The Other Bennet Sister stands on its own as a literary work. One needn’t be familiar with Austen’s novels to appreciate the book, but it helps ... It meanders at a pace reminiscent of the earlier era, giving readers license to settle in and get lost in a story that might be about characters from another century but, like all enduring classics, offers truths just as relevant today.
As a Jane Austen tribute novel, this book has plenty to recommend it. Hadlow is excellent in capturing the social nuances of the time. She shows the reality of middle-class women’s lives: the endless tedium and the economic and social necessity to find a suitable husband. I liked the characterisation of Mary but must confess to some dismay at the unsympathetic portrayal of Mrs Bennet ... as a historical novel I don’t think the book works so well. It is very light on historical detail: apart from the occasional description of clothes or fabrics, there is little to allow the reader to form a picture of the daily life of the times ... That criticism aside, if you read it as social commentary, and to find out what happened to Mary Bennet, then this is a most enjoyable novel.