A Match for Mary Bennet
Without recourse to murder mysteries or explicit un-Austenlike bedroom details (not that I don’t enjoy those too), Eucharista Ward has given us a gift of a true-to-Jane story that gently inspires with the coming-of-age journey of Mary Bennet, the least noticed of the famous Bennet sisters. As she spends time with the happily married Darcys and Bingleys, Mary’s views of love and marriage undergo some unsettling changes, and she finds she must alter her opinions, guided as they have been by her overly strict reading of Scripture.
I’ve often wondered at the very little space Austen gave in her novels to the influence of religion: her characters nominally go to church, but only Fanny Price and Edmund Bertram in Mansfield Park appear to have any true religious sensibility. In Ward’s sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet reads and ponders the great human and theological questions of life and love, struggling with new emotions and thoughts that challenge her very literal approach to the world—but not in a tiresome, preachy way at all! Her devotion to truth and humble service leads her to examine her (often) severe judgments of others, and she becomes more observant, more helpful, and more wise as she both learns from and teaches others what it means to discern God’s will in one’s life, forgive those who have caused injury, and even to fall in love! A thoroughly charming and entertaining book, one of which I’m certain Austen herself would approve.