Katherine J. Chen has written a debut novel that may be of great interest to those Jane Austen fans who have always had a soft spot for the quiet and bookish Mary Bennet.
In Mary B, Mary Bennet finally gets what some reviewers have said is a level of revenge, and certainly a greater degree of understanding “in a story that inhabits and critiques Austen’s novel”. The beginning section of the book follows to a lesser or greater extent the plot of Pride and Prejudice (in Mary B Mr Collins is seen more as an outcast like Mary than as an object of ridicule and pomp), and then we see the story continue past that which we know.
As Mary B continues, Elizabeth finds that Pemberley is not so much of an escape as a “gilded cage”, while Lydia finds that society has little sympathy for a woman without money or education. As you can probably tell from those insights, the characters we know so well are changed somewhat in their behaviour and mannerisms in many places, and for this reason it will be a book that is likely to polarise Austen fans.
As for Mary herself, she uses her brains to pen a novel of her own about “the uncouth and vicious men who, despite their titles, have little learning and little breeding and absolutely no manners at all”. Mary cannot show all that she feels, she is still living in a man’s world after all, but Mary B does show the feisty, inner side of Mary that we don’t see a lot of in Pride and Prejudice. Mary B, say reviewers, does a good job of paying homage to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, whilst also critiquing any blind spots in Jane’s perspective, and adding depth to the middle Bennet sister.
Mary B was published by Random House on 24th July and is 336 pages long.
A graduate student recently discovered a bill of sale at Windsor Castle which dates back to 1811. The bill in question charges the Prince Regent 15 shillings for a copy of Sense & Sensibility, and is dated two days before the book was advertised to the public, which is thought to make it the first known sale of a Jane Austen novel.
Sense and Sensibility was Jane’s first published novel, first published on October 30th 1811, and was followed by Pride & Prejudice in 1813, Mansfield Park in 1814, and Emma in 1815. By the time Emma was due for publication, Jane was well aware of the Prince Regent’s fondness for her books, having been asked by James Stanier Clarke, the Prince Regent’s librarian at Carlton House, if she could dedicate Emma to the Prince Regent. Jane wasn’t a big fan of the Prince Regent’s. At one time she wrote a letter strongly opposing the actions of the Prince. However, given her love of irony and satire, perhaps she would have seen the funny side of the Prince Regent being the first buyer of Sense and Sensibility!
The BBC has made some of us very happy this week by adding the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice to BBC iPlayer, making it free to watch for those Jane Austen fans who either don’t have a DVD copy of the iconic series, or those of us who have watched it so many times that they’ve worn the discs out!
As well as the 1995 Pride and Prejudice series, the BBC has also added some other classic series to iPlayer. The original 1990 series of House of Cards has been uploaded, as has the 2004 adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and a 1966 series called Talking To A Stranger, which features a breakout, BAFTA-winning performance from a young Judi Dench. At the Jane Austen News we’re thoroughly enjoying taking the opportunity to re-watch some old favourites, but also discovering some new-old favourites.
(On a related note, for those who prefer the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, there’s good news for you too. Netflix are due to add the film to the website this August, so keep an eye out for that coming online.)
For the particular attention of Jane Austen fans in the South East of England…
Following the success of their production of Pride & Prejudice in 2016, the University of Kent Players are performing Sense & Sensibility at the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury on 6-8th September. The production will be raising money for Dogs for Good UK.
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