As a reader who reveres the classics, I have always shied away from remakes or interpretations of timeless novels. There have been many authors who have added their own spin on Jane Austen's work. None of them have appealed to me until I discovered The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, lovingly crafted by bestselling writer Colleen McCullough.
Set a couple of decades beyond Pride and Prejudice, she explores the lives and loves of the Bennet sisters with new vision. Mary, never known to make waves, is relegated to serve as the companion of her mother, nicely tucked away from the rest of the family. While Mary is the ever-dutiful daughter, she is also at loose ends. While the rest of her sisters established their households, she has been educating herself. She discovers she has opinions and preferences that were overshadowed by her more vocal sisters.
Now that her mother has passed away, Mary makes a bold decision. Not content to join the Darcy or Bingley households, she wants to travel across the English countryside examining the plight of the poor. She hopes to add her voice to the reform movement by writing a book about what she discovers. Part of her decision is based on her need to make a difference, and part because she cannot imagine living under the thumb of her pompous brother-in-law, Fitzwilliam Darcy. Enamored of the scathing social commentator Argus, she is eager to begin her journey.
Time has wrought many changes to the Bennet family and Ms. McCullough explores them at length, without becoming sidetracked from Mary's story. While she was clearly overshadowed by her more attractive sisters, Mary has improved with age. She now catches the eye of two gentlemen; Robert Wilde, a barrister who oversees her inheritance, and Angus Sinclair, a friend of the Darcy's who publishes the Westminster Chronicle!, a newspaper infamous for publishing tracts by Argus. Both men are taken aback by the new and improved Mary. Will one of them capture her heart?
The tone established by Ms. Austen is faithfully maintained in this sequel. Ms. McCullough has crafted a new classic for readers to savor.