Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Match for Mary Bennet by Eucharista Ward

A Match for Mary Bennet

A Match for Mary Bennet
by Eucharista Ward, O.S.F.

Trade Paperback: 351 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
First Released: 2009

Source: ARC from publisher

Back Cover Description:
A unique and inspirational Pride and Prejudice sequel that will resonate with all readers who can relate to Mary Bennet's determination to live according to God's wishes

Written by a Franciscan nun, this is a sympathetic tale of the middle Bennet sister from Pride and Prejudice. Pious Mary Bennet tries to do her duty in the world as she thinks God envisions it.

Initially believing (mistakenly) that her sister Elizabeth married well only in order to provide for her sisters, Mary is happy to be relieved of the obligation to marry at all so that she can continue her faithful works.

But she begins to have second thoughts after further studying marriage through her sisters' experiences as well as spending time with two young men. One is a splendid young buck whose determined courtship must have ulterior motives; the other is a kindly, serious young clergyman whose friendship Mary values more and more. One day she realizes that God very much made man and woman to be together...but which is the man for her?

This novel is a historical romance set in the world of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It's a "sequel" focusing on Mary Bennet and, to a lesser extent, her sisters. It's a thoroughly enjoyable book.

The story was written in much the same tone and style as Pride and Prejudice, and the author stays true to the characters and events of that book. The pacing was a bit slower than most modern novels, but it's consistent with the pacing of Jane Austen novels. The world-building was excellent with many historical details woven in (especially about child-birth and herbal wound remedies). Even the Christian elements were set in their historical context--life as it was lived back then.

I liked that Mary was represented as an earnest young woman who grows through her experiences and ends up with her perfect match.

My only nit-picks are that the author occasionally had Darcy act a little more casually than I think he would. She also had the Bennet sisters occasionally act with more modern sensibilities than I think they would have (like having both Lizzy and a wet nurse nursing her baby--to which my mother commented, "I don't think she knows much about breast-feeding a baby."). However, even in these cases, the author gave plausible, good reasons for the characters to act that way.

There was only implied sex and no cussing. Overall, it's "good, clean fun," and I'd unhesitatingly recommend this novel to any fan of Jane Austen.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Prologue
One might say that using the divine gift of human memory for the recitation of three-month-old annoyances represents talent misspent. Mary Bennet thought, as she sat with her hand poised over the silver tea urn, that not even all four evangelists together had documented Jesus's public life as thoroughly as her mother insisted on recounting Mary's social life. Mrs. Bennet sat in an upright chair opposite the tea caddy, continuing her catalogue of Mary's behaviours at Meryton's midsummer Assembly. Mary placed the heated china pot, with its fair quantity of precious Twinings tea, below the spout of the new urn, a gift to the Bennets from Mary's sister Elizabeth Darcy. When she sensed that the recitation was nearing its end--she had heard it twice previously--Mary released the boiling water. She then concentrated on timing the brew and, finally, pouring it carefully into Mrs. Bennet's cup. She knew well that if she sloshed any onto the saucer, her mother's long-suffering sigh and roll of the eyes would be followed by, "How I miss dear Jane!" This time, Mrs. Bennet paused in her admonitions long enough to peer at the saucer, taste her tea, and smile. Mary relaxed and poured her own cup.

Mrs. Bennet then set her tea down and ignored it, fixing her eyes on her daughter's calm expression. "You sat so creep mouse in a corner with, of all things, a book! What a way to comport yourself at a dance! Why, you might as well scream to all the world that no man is good enough for you. Oh yes, I saw you stand up with Russell Mortenson, but you did not smile at him once! Dancing is not torture, you know, and your face should not declare it so. What am I to do with you? Will any gentleman ever take an interest if you continue in such a fashion?"

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