...then it probably doesn't hurt to read this book.
It's one of the cases where i wish I could give 2,5 stars, because it isn't that bad. There isn't really a good argument against reading it. I just don't know any good argument for reading it either.
I love Jane Austen because she makes me laugh and I had hopes that Ms Paynter would write an amusing tale herself, especially because her heroine is Mary Bennet, who is charmingly imperfect in the orginal Pride and Predjudice. Unfortunately if there is any humor in this tale, it eluded me.
The goal of the book seems to be to excuse every single flaw of Mary and style her as a perfect, if misunderstood and underappreciated, heroine. That might have been interesting if the exercise had been done for Lydia, who at least has some serious flaws to excuse, but in Marys case it gave me nothing. I can only say I liked the Mary of Pride and Predjudice better than this creature.
In the first part, the child Mary is an intimate at Netherfield (before the Bingleys' time) and witnesses a triangle relationship of mother and daughter with their step-son/-brother: not something I expect from an 'Austen remake' (for lack of a better word). I guess one could argue that this is a lifelike illustration of Italian liberality crashing with Victorian England. I guess one could... but somehow that didn't work for me, the whole episode just felt off-key.
But afterwards things got a lot better, meaning I felt like I was really reentering the world of Pride and Prejudice. Mary's part and character are reinterpreted, naturally, but otherwise the original story is left intact: very few changes have been made (as far as I could see) and none of them vital. Yet this is a new story. Elizabeth and Jane fade into the background, Mary has her own friends and acquaintances, whose names have been cunningly borrowed from characters mentioned in the original who have no real part to play there. (Remember Purvis Lodge with the dreadful attics?)
All in all the book was enjoyable. Compared to Pride and Prejudice, there's less humor and more social criticism. I liked being enabled to like Mary better then I used to - Austen's treatment of her always seemed a little unfair to me (should I say 'prejudiced'?) And her story was interesting enough to hold my attention. It's certainly not such prodigious fun to read as Austen's immortal work, but a nice extension, a chance to revisit while putting off the next re-read of P&P a little longer.
I am a great fan of Jane Austen ( who isn't) and was getting fed up with all the copy-cat attempts to borrow on and profit from her popularity. All the more pleased was I when I found, on reading this book, that someone finally has succeeded in diving into Austen's world and her style so admirably well. Atmosphere, customs, history - all impeccably described, without any of the usual goofs and anachronisms. True, you do miss some of Austen's levity and humor, but the story - told from Mary's point of view - really works amazingly well. I found Mary's imagined story quite touching and think it fits in with Austen's plot. As a P+P addict, I was not disappointed in this book.
I am finding this very difficult to put down! I am a big fan of Jane Austen and especially Pride and Predudice and think this compliments it well. I think that Jennifer Paynter has read between the lines of the classic and interpreted Mary's thoughts well. I am about 25% through and can't wait to see what happens next.
I was not expecting to find an author who could so well Imitate Jane Austen's style. Mary's story so well incorporated into all we so long are aware of in Pride and Prejudice was facinating. Eventually taking her out to Australia was a stroke of genius.