The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow: a review
Can there ever be too many Jane Austen books in the world? Well, with the addition of Janice Hadlow’s The Other Bennet Sister, we welcome her literary world back with open arms.
With the publication of The Other Bennet Sister, Hadlow unapologetically indulges us into the literary landscape of the Bennet household once again and leaves us feeling dreamy with nostalgia for Jane Austen’s beloved characters. There’s a richness to the writing and a vibrance to the settings and the characters, which is so absorbing we felt like we were plunged right back into the world of Austen.
While many books have played homage to the characters of Pride and Prejudice over the years, Hadlow’s The Other Bennet Sister tells the story of Mary Bennet, often thought of as the lowly, forgotten sister who wears dreary dull colours and gets snatched out of the spotlight almost as soon as she begins to flourish. In this book, Mary is brought to life in a way that sets her apart from her sisters and encourages readers to share in her story, tackling all her triumphs and pitfalls alongside her every step of the way.
Throughout the book, readers are reunited with practically all the characters from Pride and Prejudice and they ring true to their original personalities through and through. New characters also flourish along the way and it’s not long before Mary is out in London society while she quietly stays with her aunt and uncle, meeting eligible and successful men of her own, though not quite as expressively as her sisters.
Her quiet and thoughtful nature, her love of reading and books and the powers of the mind, are woven intrinsically throughout the novel and every chapter wonderfully reflects Mary’s personality, providing a lens to view the world through her eyes. In her own way, she is headstrong, smart and resilient, even though she might not even know it. Hadlow writes in a way that is completely absorbing, letting Mary shine across the pages.
The deeper we get into the novel, the more immersed we become. Mary's personal encounters, her determination to be true to herself, and her passion for learning and studying - despite the societal norms of the time and what everybody else thought - is so uplifting. Her love of facts and reason as it eventually blends with her love of feeling and poetry is weaved throughout the pages, spurred on and nurtured by the charming Mr Hayward.
Mary’s transformation from a forgotten, lowly Bennet sister into a confident, strident young woman who knows her own mind is wonderful – and a literary treasure to add to the Austen world bookshelf.
This book returns us to Jane Austen's world in a way that makes us question why we ever left. Hadlow's excellent way in which she presents these famous characters who are known and beloved by many feels seamless, faultless and, ultimately, it was a beautiful joy to read.
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