Published: January 2020 - Mantle.
Genre: Adult / historical fiction / retellings / romance. 
Pages: 658.
Triggers/Content Advisory: N.A. 
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All thoughts are my own. 

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mary is the middle of the five Bennet girls and the plainest of them all, so what hope does she have? Prim and pious, with no redeeming features, she is unloved and seemingly unlovable.

The Other Bennet Sister, though, shows another side to Mary. An introvert in a family of extroverts; a constant disappointment to her mother who values beauty above all else; fearful of her father’s sharp tongue; with little in common with her siblings – is it any wonder she turns to books for both company and guidance? And, if she finds her life lonely or lacking, that she determines to try harder at the one thing she can be: right.

One by one, her sisters marry – Jane and Lizzy for love; Lydia for some semblance of respectability – but Mary, it seems, is destined to remain single and live out her life at Longbourn, at least until her father dies and the house is bequeathed to the reviled Mr Collins.

But when that fateful day finally comes, she slowly discovers that perhaps there is hope for her, after all.

This novel is perfect for you if you're a fan of Austen, and if you like gentle-moving historical fiction and old-fashioned romance. It's a good story, but I personally didn't love it.

I definitely enjoyed it. It's relaxing to read, and there's something so comforting about escaping into this particular era with familiar characters. Unfortunately, I also found it boring at times. The writing is rather plain, too, and Mary's internal monologuing gets repetitive. Altogether it's not bad - just unremarkable. The plot could've been stronger (this is certainly a character driven story) and the writing lacked sparkle, as well. 

"It is my conviction, Miss. Bennet, that our inability to say what we mean, to tell the truth about what we think and feel, is one of the great curses of our age. We say we honour candour and honesty, but we do not practice them. Instead, we hide behind a thousand equivocations and disguises that we like to call politeness - and remain in wilful ignorance of the truth of our affections, when knowledge of them might have changed our lives forever, had we but been aware of their existence."

Mary was the character I always related to when I watched Pride and Prejudice, and at the same time she was the one I didn't want to relate to. She's always been portrayed as a overly pious, boring, and "ugly" character. The reason I wanted to read this book was because it promised to give her more depth; to actually understand and flesh her personality out, and I wanted that for her character.

I love what Hadlow does with Mary. I love that we get to be inside her head and to see the events of Pride and Prejudice (and post Pride and Prejudice, all from Hadlow's own imagination) from her perspective. I especially enjoyed watching her relationships with her sisters, and liked how Hadlow portrayed the other characters (that we know from Austen's own work) through Mary's eyes. It made me see them in a new light, Lizzy especially.

I related to Mary more than I ever have, and it was refreshing to see someone like her (especially in the context of the story) be a three-dimensional heroine easily carrying her own story. Her pain and hurt is palpable, but so is her strength, intelligence, courage, and independence. She's inspirational. She's also fully realised.

I enjoyed seeing more of the Gardiner family, too, and all of the new characters and settings that Hadlow introduces to the Austen universe - firmly making it her own. Mary's romance is lovely, so is her beautiful friendship with the Gardiners (especially with Mrs. Gardiner - it felt so good to see her become like a mother to Mary, and give her the love and acceptance her own mother never did), and her other relationships (good and bad) are all compelling and complicated.  It's got the charm of Austen, but at the same time it's wholly new and interesting. The balance is perfect.

The Other Bennet Sister is a sweet, gentle story that makes an admirable heroine out of Jane Austen's Mary Bennet. 

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