Mary B

Written by Katherine J. Chen
Review by Arleigh Ordoyne

The Austen continuation genre has gained another literary take with this debut novel focused on the character of Mary Bennet. The story begins with Mr. Collins’ visit as per the original story of Pride and Prejudice and finds Mary infatuated with her cousin. It does not deviate from Austen’s version—although does give insight to motives—and all four marriages from the canon take place. Mary then travels to Pemberley, where she is rudely accosted by Darcy’s cousin, Colonel Fitzwilliam, and another romance ensues. In her downtime, Mary begins writing a novel, which takes on an important role in the story, displaying her intelligence and wit while connecting her with others, and giving her options beyond her sisters’ choices.

The character of Mary has a smart and delightfully sarcastic personality, and most of her choices make sense given her situation. However, other characters deviate drastically from Austen’s vision, and readers may take offense at these new incarnations. While Mary B has a strong, polished start, the momentum deflates rapidly as some characters who were once open and sincere withdraw unapologetically and with no proper resolution. The ending is commendable but could have been accomplished with less drama. Even so, the writing style is splendid, with many tidy turns of phrase, as well as perfectly constructed paragraphs—perhaps most notably regarding the novel-inside-a-novel parts. There are no instances of modernity imposed on the era, as can be an issue with many Austen-inspired pieces. Overall, this is an engaging and complimentary account of a sometimes vilified, often ignored literary figure.