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Book Review: The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath

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If you’ve longed to take just one more turn in the grounds of Pemberley, or just another peek at Rosings, then Patrice Sarath’s The Unexpected Miss Bennet will be a sweet return to familiar Jane Austen territory. It’s a competent and engaging work of fan fiction, following the coming-of-age of Miss Mary Bennet and set straight after the events of Pride and Prejudice.

The author cleverly focuses on a character that wasn’t central to Austen’s original work. Miss Mary Bennet’s religious, dutiful nature, and plain looks have led everyone around her to assume that she should remain a spinster. Nagging self-doubt and the meddling of her sisters spur her on to a journey of self-discovery.

Despite Mary’s outward exasperation with frivolity, courting and marriage, she secretly longs for more than her role as the girl whose duty it is to provide the musical entertainment for everyone else’s parties. To accentuate the insult, despite her tireless practice at the craft she doesn’t quite measure up to the apparently effortless talents of her peers. The story unfolds as Jane invites Mary to Pemberley. Her quiet rebellion blooms with a sudden self-imposed break with music and the unexpected change of scenery.

From an enigmatic romantic tension not unlike the dark and brooding Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice to the pious snivelling of Mr Collins and the icy disdain emanating from Lady Catherine de Bourgh, almost all the hallmarks of a good Austen story are present and accounted for. There are misunderstandings and complications; Jane’s role in Mary’s life has echoes of Emma and the discovery of The Mysteries of Udolpho by Mary hints at Northanger Abbey.

Yet I did find that despite wearing the best of Jane Austen costumes (complete with the most adorable bonnet) the author’s fancy-dress performance of Austen’s greatest hits still produces the odd off-note. This is Jane Austen, as lovingly retold by an American devotee. It’s a little too “straight”, frequently lacking the depth of sub-text, and so there are moments when one is briefly reminded that this is not the real deal. But to be only briefly reminded of the fact is quite the achievement.

Reading The Unexpected Miss Bennet is an indulgent treat which I suspect most Jane Austen fans will thoroughly enjoy. I was left hoping for more.

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About Nukapai

I learned to write before I could read and my first story was published when I was only 9 years old. I'm interested in a range of topics - particularly in science fiction, fantasy, horror, illustration, cosmetics industry, consumer psychology, marketing and perfumery. I keep a personal blog at http://www.volatilefiction.co.uk
  • Reisa Gerber

    I have to repeat myself as if a certain memory in my head was going around and around, and noone would stop to say “hey!
    WHAT?” I’M MORTIFIED HERE. I support president obama and his wife michelle for the first lady and theee second term president…my friend John Mellencamp has
    come out and said that he paints and sings about the human condition…why me? Do I have to number this again? This is the final time…..
    1. who gives a f – – – ? The PRESIDENT and his wife were out there last year and they
    were walkin’ around the flotsam and jetsam left by hurricane katrina…they were hugging infants and people like real people and spreading compassion all over that place in louisiana, new orleans etcetera, and the driftwood and I couldn’t see anything but “I CARE ABOUT YOU.” Sincerely,
    B. and M. obama…and okay! I am now 56 years of age, and I am unemployed, although I love to rock and roll and I write…through, as my friend, Johnny Camp says, too, “I don’t write music! It comes through me…through my spirit, and maybe it might just take me five minutes to write, but twenty years to understand…All
    he has to know is, that he could not afford to pay my way through this world…especially “the crazy ones” song…

  • Reisa Gerber

    Now…this is a necessity, so I willl continue…Pink Houses is a song that John Mellencampp wrote in 1983…in his album “uh-huh”..I get a headache just thinking…”
    oh there’s people, there’s people,there’s people,
    what do they know, know, know?
    Go to work and somehow rise, and vacation
    down at the gulf of mexico…and there’s winners, and there’s losers,
    but that aint no big deal! It’s the simple man, pays the bills, the thrills and the pills that kill…oh aint that america?”
    why me? I GET DAM KICKED!!!…so, we’re gonna finish…
    There is another mellencamp song that is more appropot nowadays, called…
    The Full Catastrophe/mellencamp…and whatever spirits move him!

    I’m headed down sunset, I drank expensive wine,
    I’ve been married two dozen times…
    Raised ten children on a workman’s pay…
    And I’m glad to say I enjoyed everyday
    of the full catastrophe of life.

    I’ve sat in court, heard people call me names
    I flew to London on a supersonic plane
    “I was loving your wife while you were loving mine-and I’m glad to say, I enjoyed
    everyday of the full catastrophe of life.
    I’ve opened my bags to trouble everyday…
    Aint lookin’ for a fight, but you know I won’t run away
    from the full catastrophe of life….
    just a sentence…oh my goodness!

    *I was lovin’ your life, while you were loving mine!
    ouch!!!!