Pamela Mingle’s The Pursuit of Mary Bennet is a continuation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I’m sure you knew that, but I figured it would be nice if we were all on the same page. I definitely count continuations and spin-offs as books about books because they’re essentially love letters written to the original authors and to the original books. Now, as we all know, some people are better at writing love letters and expressing their feelings than others (see Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice). I love reading books like these, but sometimes the are terribly bad or simply eh. That’s not good when it’s a continuation of a beloved story. I’ve read a few of these based on Austen’s novel, even popular ones that other people loved and raved about (Death Comes to Pemberly), that I didn’t like. I’m happy to report that was not the case with this book. I enjoyed it immensely.
In some places, I wondered if certain aspects were too much, such as Mary’s self-conciousness or Kitty’s outright disdain for Mary. It all evened out, however, and the various aspects made sense and worked for Mingle’s plot. I wasn’t sure that it was believable for Mary to reject the first proposal she received, but it gave the story a twist and mirrored the original structure of Pride and Prejudice. After I read further and saw where she was going, I became okay with that strange part of the plot. In Mingle’s story, equal blame is laid on Lydia and Wickham for their terrible decisions, and I liked that; so many stories throw it all on Wickham and make Lydia seem like a sad victim, and that just isn’t true to the original story. When I finished the book and looked back at the cover, I realized how much I appreciate the title of this book. When I started reading it, I assumed The Pursuit of Mary Bennet referred to a suitor (or suitors) coming for Mary, but the book was largely about Mary becoming comfortable with herself, figuring out what she enjoys about life, and discovering that others could love her and why they do. So the title is doing double the work and covering the essential themes and plot points of the whole book. Wonderful.
This was the first time in a very long time I have stayed up super late to finish a book. I would give this a four out of five for the shaky start and stellar ending.