I saw a patient reading this while on shift a while back – ever since Covid hit and the visitor restrictions came in I’ve noticed people reading a lot more, as well as getting a lot closer to the other patients and nursing staff. Gone are the days where patients had a rolling schedule of visitors to keep them distracted while they got better – now they have each other and us, and that means they’ve been chatting far more.
This particular patient was telling me how much she enjoyed the book – I read the blurb, was suitably sold and then completely forgot about the conversation until a different patient a few weeks later pulled out exactly the same book and proceeded to tell all six of us (five other patients and myself) exactly how much she loved it. This sparked my attention, and I ordered it for myself.
There have been a handful of books this year that I have raced through in a single sitting; this is not one of them. I savoured this book like a child trying to make a biscuit last an hour – a little nibble here and there. It is well written and a welcome indulgence to those Pride and Prejudice fans who enjoy a well-done re-telling. It took much of what I love from ‘Death Comes To Pemberley’ and made it last the entire book – recasting well-known characters into new roles with fresh light on events that we will all recognise from the famous classic, but from the perspective of overlooked Mary, the middle sister.
This re-telling starts long before Mr Bingley arrives, following Mary from a hopeful young child through to the realisation that she is a little dull and plain. This book is a very modern take on the Austen classic, which was viewed as rather modern at its time of publishing. In this book, the plain and unappealing Mary, who appears to the butt of varied jokes in P&P, undergoes a journey of self-discovery and develops that much-desired quality in a young woman – a backbone.
It’s not a necessity to have read P&P in order to enjoy this book, since it happily stands alone, though without that background you may miss the odd quip or in-joke here or there. That doesn’t detract from the joy of the story however, which is a very spunky coming of age story about a woman who cultures her mind in the absence of having wealth or natural beauty to recommend her and learns her own mind and style.
I really wanted to cheer for Mary as the book progressed, she was a joy to read about and I am looking forward to re-visiting this little gem on a rainy weekend curled up in my armchair with a biscuit (or five!).
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