The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet
Pocket, Dec 2009, $7.99
Her sisters assume the bookworm spinster Mary Bennet will take care of their widow mom in her old age. The siblings each have their own lives although dreams from two decades ago never played out the way each thought it would be. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy share an unhappy marriage. Kitty the widow is lucky as her mate died just after they exchanged their vows. Jane is pregnant or recovering form pregnancy with no time for anything else. Lydia has become a drunk.
When her termagant mom dies, Mary feels relief as she can now live her life. Her sisters and their husbands are outraged when she says goodbye as she travels in Northern England keeping a journal on the plight of the working poor. However, the thirty-eight years old has never been anywhere alone so she runs into all sorts of trouble that she bravely faces like the Highwayman and the Prophet Father Dominus who abducts her into his cave. Meanwhile Mr. Darcy has political ambitions so he hires nasty but loyal Ned Skinner to keep the sisters in line as scandal would destroy his plans.
Although it lacks the subtle humor of Jane Austen, this “sequel” to Pride and Prejducie is well written as it extrapolates where the characters could have gone two decades later. That is the strength and weakness of the story line as it is interesting to see where Colleen McCullough takes the Bennet sisters and their extended families. However, fans will find it difficult to accept what they become; for instance Mr. Darcy as an ambitious over the top of Big Ben villain or the bookworm becoming pretty, outgoing and touring the worst conditions she can find in the north. Fans who cannot get enough Austen spins will enjoy the quadrillionth twist.