The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough, Australia, 2008

I am not a fan of anyone taking characters from another author's book – in this case one of the classics – and writing a so-called sequel to that book. I can imagine that Jane Austen turned in her grave when this book hit the shelves: the writing is mediocre, the characterization is extremely poor and the plot is both superficial and unbelievable, to say the least. However, for anyone with hours to whittle away and a penchant for third-class romantic novels that follow the Mills and Boon requisite for a happy ending, this book may possibly tick all the boxes.

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet picks up twenty years after the conclusion of Pride and Prejudice, focusing on the middle daughter, Mary, who has undergone some kind of transformation and, after being the plain one in the family, is now considered beautiful, possibly even more beautiful than Elizabeth. Mrs Bennet dies on page two, leaving Mary (her carer) the option of moving in with her sister Elizabeth, and becoming a live-in spinster aunt, or pursuing the possibility of independence (a no-no for young ladies of the early nineteenth century). Of course, in keeping with the title of the book, Mary chooses the second of these two options. As an unaccompanied lady, she endures a hair-raising trip across England and ends up being imprisoned by a religious maniac.
Photo of Colleen McCullough from
While we are following the trials and tribulations of Mary, we are also reintroduced to the other characters of Pride and Prejudice – all of them completely at odds with or, at the very least, caricatures of their original incarnations. Fitzwilliam Darcy is obnoxious, Lydia is a drunk, Elizabeth is frigid, Jane seems to be completely without backbone… add to this a number of senseless murders, a surprise sibling, thousands of pounds worth of hidden gold and fifty uncivilized orphans, and the scene is set for one of the worst novels I have read this year.

I am not recommending this book, but I do suggest you read (or reread) Pride and Prejudice and enjoy a well written and well crafted novel.