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Review – The Other Bennet Sister

Posted in Book Blogger

The Other Bennet Sister

by Janice Hadlow

Genres: Literary Fiction, Regency, Romance
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Pages: 481
Purchase from: Amazon
My Rating: ★★★★☆

What if Mary Bennet’s life took a different path from that laid out for her in Pride and Prejudice? What if the frustrated intellectual of the Bennet family, the marginalized middle daughter, the plain girl who takes refuge in her books, eventually found the fulfillment enjoyed by her prettier, more confident sisters? This is the plot of Janice Hadlow’s The Other Bennet Sister, a debut novel with exactly the affection and authority to satisfy Jane Austen fans.

Ultimately, Mary’s journey is like that taken by every Austen heroine. She learns that she can only expect joy when she has accepted who she really is. She must throw off the false expectations and wrong ideas that have combined to obscure her true nature and prevented her from what makes her happy. Only when she undergoes this evolution does she have a chance at finding fulfillment; only then does she have the clarity to recognize her partner when he presents himself—and only at that moment is she genuinely worthy of love.

Mary’s destiny diverges from that of her sisters. It does not involve broad acres or landed gentry. But it does include a man; and, as in all Austen novels, Mary must decide whether he is the truly the one for her. In The Other Bennet Sister, Mary is a fully rounded character—complex, conflicted, and often uncertain; but also vulnerable, supremely sympathetic, and ultimately the protagonist of an uncommonly satisfying debut novel.


**Please be aware, this review contains spoilers.**

Right off the bat, I’ve got to say that The Other Bennet Sister (TOBS) hit me hard in the feels. It had such a sad start. I felt for poor Mary and the terrible lessons she learned from her mother.

As if those false lessons about her inadequacy weren’t enough, Charlotte reinforces the negativity. At first, it seems kindly meant, but as the story progressed, I grew to serious dislike this Charlotte. She goes from providing far too much information to keeping her counsel on probably the most important matter between her and Mary. It annoyed me that she was so jealous of attention she never seemed to want.

But, moving on, I loved the way Mary blossomed at the Gardiner’s. Mrs. Gardiner, especially, is so kind to her, treating her as a daughter, rather than a nearly-spinster niece. The gentle coaxing and care brought Mary out of her shell and helped her blossom. And attention from Mrs. Gardiner’s cousin, Tom Haward, didn’t hurt.

Unfortunately, however, misunderstandings abound, and Mary allows herself to be unduly influenced by attention from Mr. Ryder. As the three of them dance around each other, with Caroline Bingley hovering always in the area, I wanted to reach in and smack both Mary and Tom. They are so clueless, they seem almost willfully ignorant of their feelings for each other.

I applaud Mary for figuring out her life near the end. She grows enough of a backbone to politely tell Caroline to fuck off. She also declines both of Mr. Ryder’s proposals, the indecent and respectable, putting emotion before practicality for once.

It was lovely to see Mary get her happy ending, although I would have liked to see more of her joy after all of the pain and anguish. We, as readers, get very little reward after joining Mary on her difficult life’s journey.

Overall, I enjoyed TOBS, although it was difficult to get through in places, given the levels of angst and drama. If you’re looking for an easy, fun, read, this isn’t for you. But, if you want a rewarding glimpse into Mary Bennet’s soul, this is it.

About the Author

Janice Hadlow worked at the BBC for more than two decades, and for ten of those years she ran BBC Two and BBC Four, two of the broadcaster’s major television channels. She was educated at Swanley School in Kent and graduated with a first class degree in history from King’s college, London. She is the author of A Royal Experiment, a biography of Great Britain’s King George III. She currently lives in Edinburgh. The Other Bennet Sister is her first novel.

Author links: Website | Goodreads | Wikipedia

NOTE: This review is based on an eBook I purchased from Amazon on April 7, 2021.

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