So many Jane Austen imitations, parodies, spinoffs, "fanfics" and
zombie-led revivals have been published in recent years, the
reader might be excused for never wanting to hear of another, but
this is one of the best I've seen.
Jennifer Paynter, a Sydney writer, takes the most annoying of
the Bennet sisters from Pride and Prejudice and provides a
credible version of her backstory that sheds a newly sympathetic
light on a hitherto unsympathetic character.
Mary Bennet is the swot of the family, the humourless,
piano-playing middle sister who utters pointless moral maxims at
times of crisis. Paynter has a lot of fun with Mary's character,
using her narrative voice to explain her behaviour, and at the
same time maintaining a consistent, toned-down version of Austen's
style. It's an impressive literary achievement and a delightful
Elli Housden - Daily Telegraph and Brisbane Courier Mail:
The fascinatingly addictive world of Pride And Prejudice
has now been recreated in Mary Bennet by debut novelist
Plain and bespectacled, Mary is the middle Bennet sister,
alienated from both her sensible older siblings and her silly
younger ones by her position in the family... as the novel
progresses, the reader warms towards Mary, despite her occasional
criticism of her sister Elizabeth, a bold move as Lizzy Bennet is
one of the most popular heroines in English literature.
In Mary Bennet, the author has recreated the original
story while weaving in some new episodes and characters.... at
times, Mary seems overly perceptive and worldly for her teenage
years. There are some risque incidents too... and yet, Mary
Bennet succeeds in inviting us back into the world of
Longbourn and the Bennet family and their preoccupation with
marriage, money and social class.
In Mary Bennet, Sydney author Paynter has been daring in
allowing a love match to whisk Mary away from her neurotic mother,
contemptuous father and superior sisters to a new life in
Australia. Bravo! (This review has been abridged. The full text is behind a
(Selected quotes under link to the full review.) 1
Girl 2 Many Books: …what I appreciated about it was that Paynter didn’t try and change
Mary… I found it a very enjoyable and easy read. Whilst it does
outline the events of the original P&P ... it doesn’t
bog down the narrative repeating things that most people would
Reader (Danielle): …an interesting and thoroughly believable re-imagining of Jane
Austen’s oft-overlooked Bennet sister. Paynter’s voice is so very,
lovingly Austen-esque that you can really imagine Mary Bennet
to be the story she would have written, if she had been so
inclined to be a little bit kinder to the “only plain one in the
(Laurel Ann, review by Jenny Hagerty): This site has a lengthy review of
The Forgotten Sister, as
well as a
article about the book.
Bennet Sisters (Jennifer Duke): …a refreshing look at the characters (Mr Bennet and Lizzy
don’t always fare so well) and it’s written in a way that stays
completely true to Jane Austen, but also gives us entirely new
storylines and characters to enjoy... (There's
also a Q & A between Jennifer D and Jennifer P.)
Out (Shelleyrae): …Jennifer Paynter imitates the tone of Austen remarkably well,
the language is true to the period and Mary’s voice feels
(Canberra members of JASA - reviewed by Jenny): …Paynter has neatly wrapped a prequel and a sequel around the
original, presenting Mary in a more sympathetic and interesting
light......this one can take its place proudly as a worthy
addition (to the genre), being both entertaining and original.....
in the bath (BryOak): …a sweet, lovely book (with such a pretty cover to-boot!)…
Jennifer Paynter remains true to the original story (and style of
writing) but makes it her own too in this lovely, evocative book...
Book You Like: …In the tradition of novels like The Red Tent and
plays such as Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,
the author has taken a neglected, nearly invisible character and
‘revealed’ their untold story, providing us with a new perspective
of a story we already know so well.
Mary Bennet is beautifully true to the original story most
particularly in its cast of many characters, all whose stories
intertwine. Read alongside the original Pride and Prejudice,
it provides a pitch-perfect accompaniment....
.... Jennifer has also recreated the tone, time and language
expertly. Obviously, much time has been taken to research and
rehearse this style of writing, and in my opinion the author gets
it very right. I’d say that there’s few pages that wouldn’t have
required careful research and construction, making for quite a
rewarding experience on the part of the reader.........