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Mary B: A Novel

An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice
Narrated by: Marisa Calin
Length: 11 hrs and 43 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
3.5 out of 5 stars (6 ratings)

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Summary

“A new, wholly original perspective on [Pride and Prejudice]...the ultimate Austen adaptation for our time.” [Real Simple, “Best Books of 2018 (So Far)]” 

Named a best summer read by Newsday, Bustle, and Family Circle

The overlooked middle sister in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice casts off her prim exterior and takes center stage in this fresh retelling of the classic novel.

What is to be done with Mary Bennet? She possesses neither the beauty of her eldest sister, Jane, nor the high-spirited wit of second-born Lizzy. Even compared to her frivolous younger siblings, Kitty and Lydia, Mary knows she is lacking in the ways that matter for single, not-so-well-to-do women in 19th-century England who must secure their futures through the finding of a husband. As her sisters wed one by one, Mary pictures herself growing old, a spinster with no estate to run or children to mind, dependent on the charity of others. At least she has the silent rebellion and secret pleasures of reading and writing to keep her company. But even her fictional creations are no match for the scandal, tragedy, and romance that eventually visit Mary’s own life. 

In Mary B, listeners are transported beyond the center of the ballroom to discover that wallflowers are sometimes the most intriguing guests at the party. Beneath Mary’s plain appearance and bookish demeanor simmers an inner life brimming with passion, humor, and imagination - and a voice that demands to be heard. Set before, during, and after the events of Pride and Prejudice, Katherine J. Chen’s vividly original debut novel pays homage to a beloved classic while envisioning a life that is difficult to achieve in any era: that of a truly independent woman.

Praise for Mary B:

“The best part about Mary’s star turn is that it bears little relation to the fates of her sisters. She’s a simmering, churning, smart woman determined to concoct an independent life.”(The Washington Post)

Pride and Prejudice’s beloved story is re-spun through the eyes of mousy, overlooked - and now feminist - middle child, Mary.” (Family Circle)

©2018 Katherine J. Chen (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

“Mary is an adventurer, a lover, and a heroine with far more gumption and grit than meets the eye.” (Bustle)

“Perhaps not even a newly discovered Austen manuscript could exceed the delicious pleasure of Mary B. From an unswept corner of literature, Katherine J. Chen has conjured a heroine whose story is heartbreaking, hilarious, and, finally, thrilling. Mary B is a delight.” (Susan Choi, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of American Woman and My Education

“Katherine J. Chen has dipped into Pride and Prejudice to pluck out and celebrate the seemingly most unpromising of the Bennet sisters. In giving Mary Bennet a resonant voice of her own, Chen has fashioned a luminous and enlightening novel that will entrance even, or especially, those who have not read Jane Austen’s masterpiece.” (John Banville, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Sea and Mrs. Osmond

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Shockingly bad

If you wish to hear one of the most beloved classics of all times completely butchered - then this is it. I am shocked by this - I listened to it part the way through and then as I realised what was going on - when spoiler alert

Darcy falls in love with Mary - and the love she had with the colonel comes to naught - I skipped to the end - and I am glad to have spared myself the tragedy of my most beloved characters being slaughtered out of their wit, morality and overall character.

As I have the unfortunate need to complete any book - I will go back to read the missed chapters but honestly - I have little hope that there is anything to redeem this train wreck of a story.

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Mary Bennet tells her story

Mary B's story begins before P&P begins, and carries on after Lizzie and Jane marry and leave home. When Mary is first invited by Elizabeth to Pemberley, Darcy's home, and stays on for four months, she little realises how her stay there will change her own life and the fortunes of her sisters.

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  • celeste curley
  • 14-08-18

Not sure what to say....

I liked parts of this book very much. I disliked parts equally as much. I think I just couldn’t accept the turn the futures, particularly of Lizzy, took in the book. The ending came quickly and rushed. And, although I think it was meant to be uplifting and triumphant I found it a bit mean-spirited and ungrateful .

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 21-11-18

Unfortunate novel

While this book was well written it seems arrogant and foolish to deprecate one of the great classics, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin just to further one character (Mary Bennett). It was difficult to like Mary, who was dour, boring, and just hard to like. While I liked the feminist theme of the novel, the fact that the author had to denigrate everyone else so Mary could shine was unfortunate.

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  • carole thorn
  • 28-08-18

LOVED IT! Completely transported me far away.

Listened four times. Didnt want it to end. Wished I could have stayed with Mary.

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  • Grandma SS
  • 01-08-18

Disappointing

The story started off good but quickly turned into a terrible romance novel. If you are a Jane Austen fan skip this one.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-03-20

It's a big fat NO for me!

I normally don't write reviews but I had to with this one.
What can I say, I was so incredibly disappointed in this! I've read many retellings and sequels not all were great but this one had to be the most disappointing one I've ever read. Just the way the author changed key characters personalities was quite horrible.
*Spoilers* Elizabeth & Darcy were not great at all in this one. They aren't even nice. Very selfish portrayals. Also the author made you feel sorry for Mr. Collins and Lydia REALLY!!!! that wasn't necessary at all but to each it's own.
If you are an Austen purist do not read this book! You have been warned.

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  • Therese Van Arsdale
  • 26-05-19

Hear, Hear Mary B

This is an interesting take on Pride and Prejudice and although I can't agree with all of Ms Chen's choices, I did find them refreshing. There are some mistakes that really annoyed me. The Bennets are not poor, they are undowered because neither of their parents is any good at managing money. They are in the top fifteen percent of earnings of their era. The descriptions of shabbiness at Longbourne comes more from the Keira Knightley film than they do from the novel. Why did she make Mr Collins short when Jane Austen said he was a tall heavily built young man? Plain isn't a discrete way of saying ugly. It simply means ordinary, nondescript, not pretty, May Bennet wouldn't have broken any mirrors. No mother as dedicated to marrying off her daughters as Mrs Bennet would allow her daughter to dress like a governess in greys and browns--just wouldn't happen. There is no Bedfordhire County, this is an American usage. Any UK County ending in ---shire is simply ---shire i,e, Hampshire, Lincolnshire, Herefordshire. Counties without the ---shire ending are County Whatever; i,e. County Durham, County Devon and so on. This grated because this is easily researched and someone should have caught it. Yes, I am capable of being as pedantic as Mary Bennet.

That said Ms Chen does create a compelling character in her Mary Bennet, she's as witty as Lizzy and has her own take on the world around her. Often a caustic take. This frees her of some of the constraints of her society and allows her to forge her own path. Seeing the events of Pride and Prejudice through her eyes adds new dimensions to the well-loved story and makes us reconsider the characters JA fans know and love so well. This, however, is only the first part of the novel. Most of the story is set at Pemberley where Mary has been invited for a long visit as Lizzy awaits the birth of a child. While staying at the great house she meets and befriends Col. Fitzwilliam and Mr Darcy himself. I don't want to give away to much of the story but this part of the story asks a question that is both old and new: Can a woman attract a man with something other than her look? Mary uses her abilty to make friends as a way to forge relationships. Will it work?

This is a sprightly novel full of wit, and Ms Chen delivers her tale with a light touch and wonderful character descriptions. She's thought through her plot well and uses it to raise interesting questions.
Loved it.