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The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet: A Novel Hardcover – December 30, 2008

109 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

McCullough's (The Thorn Birds) sequel to Pride and Prejudice vaults the characters of the original into a ridiculously bizarre world, spinning dizzily among plot lines until it finally crashes to a close. The novel begins 20 years after Austens classic ends, with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy trapped in a passionless marriage, Jane a spineless baby machine, Lydia an alcoholic tramp, Kitty a cheerfully vapid widow and Mary a naïve feminist and social crusader. Shrewish Mrs. Bennet's death frees Mary from her caretaker duties, and, inspired by the writings of a crusading journalist, Mary sets off to document the plight of Englands poor. Along the way, she is abused, robbed and imprisoned by the prophet of a cave-dwelling cult. Darcy is the books villain, and he busies himself with hushing up the Bennet clans improprieties in service of his political career. His dirty work is carried out by Ned Skinner, whose odd devotion to Darcy drives his exploits, the nastiest of which involves murder. McCullough lacks Austen's gently reproving good humor, making the family's adventures into a mannered spaghetti western with a tacked-on, albeit Austenesque, happy ending. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

There are some beloved literary classics that should never be messed with, and some people would venture to say Pride and Prejudice is definitely one of them. Of course, given the current craze for all things Austen, there have been a host of sequels, spin-offs, and updated versions of all five of the Austen novels. One would hope that in the seasoned hands of historical-fiction master McCullough the tale of the middle Bennet sister would be a cut above most pale imitations, but the narrative falters on the very premise the author is trying to cash in on. In and of itself, the feminist rebellion of a middle-aged spinster who has been relegated to the sidelines by both circumstances and her more comely sisters might have been an adventure worth taking if McCullough had not appended it to one of the most cherished and passionate love stories of all time. It is difficult to become involved in Mary’s plight when one is so distracted by familiar characters like Elizabeth and Darcy, who bear little or no resemblance—beyond their names and family connections—to Austen’s original creations. Considering the reputations of both Austen and McCullough, expect a reasonable demand for this disappointing offshoot. --Margaret Flanagan
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (December 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416596488
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416596486
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,284,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Colleen McCullough was born in Australia. A neuropathologist, she established the department of neurophysiology at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney before working as a researcher and teacher at Yale Medical School for ten years. Her writing career began with the publication of Tim, followed by The Thorn Birds, a record-breaking international bestseller. She lives on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific with her husband, Ric Robinson.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Laurel Ann VINE VOICE on December 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Any Janeite who makes it to the third chapter of The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet is in my opinion free to think author Colleen McCullough an impudent rapscallion.

I am confident that she will have no problem agreeing with me since she admitted that her motivation in writing a sequel to Pride and Prejudice was to stick it to the literati. Since it is doubtful that the good men and women of the arts and letters will read this novel, she is actually thumbing her nose at Jane Austen's fans and having a jolly time of it. If by some slim chance you are reading this Ms. McCullough, you have far exceeded your objective and should be quite pleased with yourself. I am a Jane Austen fan, and I am not amused.

What about Mary?

When the news hit the blogosphere last spring that the best selling author of The Thorn Birds and The Masters of Rome Series Colleen McCullough was writing a sequel to Pride and Prejudice based on Mary Bennet, I was both astonished and intrigued. I had secretly adored Mary, the middle Bennet daughter who only had eight passages of dialogue in the original novel, but made a lasting impact with her pious pontifications and deafeningly out of tune song stylings. Her older sisters may have been mortified by her exhibitions, but I just laughed out loud and wished for more. Well Janeites, be very careful what you wish for, cuz it could very well land at your local bookstore.

In which Mary gets a makeover!

You can blame it all of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries. Many people over the years have credited it for the ignition of Austenmania, fueling many movies and a cottage industry of sequel writers.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Hawaii 5-0 on June 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I now understand that Ms. McCullough wrote this particular book to thumb her nose at the literati. My question is "Why"? And why select Jane Austen's beloved masterpiece, Price and Predjudice, as the vehicle for her vitriol?

This book was a direct insult not only to Austen, but to her legions of readers over the past 150 years. Ms. McCullough was aware that by virtue of her own famous name, and by titling the book "The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet" she was assured of large sales, thus profiting hugely from those readers who perhaps would not normally buy one of her books. Titling a book is easy; publishing and promoting it as a sequel is risky at best. This book was not a sequel. It was a joke -- on us.

Spoilers follow.

We are to allow that a now 50-year-old Darcy detests his only son Charlie because he is supposedly homosexual and a mama's boy (based solely upon the nasty gossip of Caroline Bingley). We are to believe that Darcy also detests his own 4 daughters, completely ignoring them by relegating them, including the two elder daughthers (16 and 17), to the shabby children's wing and schoolroom at Pemberley --- not to be thought of until their society debut at 18, when he can get them married off. How can we possibly accept this when in P&P, Darcy not only stood as a steady friend for years to the somewhat effeminate and naive Bingley, but who also stood as a doting, caring, involved father figure to his own teenaged sister Georgiana? Yet he would treat his OWN teenage daughters as non-entities?

We are told that Darcy's unbridled wedding-night passion resulted in the raping of Elizabeth, and that she has suffered this indignity in silence all these long 20 years. That's not Jane's Lizzie.
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful By M. Roberts on January 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book is so poor that it's spurred me into providing this, my first (and probably last) review ever. By putting this ridiculous sequel into print it is clear that McCullough thinks little of Jane Austen, and not only Jane Austen readers, but also her own. Give us some credit Colleen. An avid reader of both McCullough and Austen in the past I was sorely disappointed. In fact I could hardly believe my eyes as I worked through the book. Given that McCullough is normally very well researched I am sure people like the bizarro characters introduced in this insult of a book really did exist in those times. But honestly, did all that silliness really need to be added to the Bennet-Darcy story? I am sure an original series could have been established to satisfy McCullough's desire to write about 18th-19th century lechers, murderers, highwaymen, drunks, religious sects, caves, decrepit fathers, whores, orphans, and illegitimate West Indian children, thereby leaving the Bennets and Jane Austen out of it. My opinion - McCullough has provided a sequel which is all prejudice and no pride.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By K on February 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book was not worthy of McCullough (or Austen, for that matter). But since it bears no real resemblance to Austen's book -- after the first couple of chapters any pretence that this is a commentary on that beloved novel is lost -- I think that you do need to almost look at this as a separate entity.

[I understand some of the reviewers here and their attempt to graft the historical and literary commentary about the times and styles, themes etc., onto their review of this novel, but frankly for 99.5 % of the audience (and I include myself in their number, in spite of my degree in History, and Master's degree in Librarianship) this novel will only really be remembered ultimately as a thing completely apart from Austen's masterpiece. These are not the characters of Austen, in dialogue, appearance, behavior, attitude... in short, I have trouble really understanding "Austen-phile's" even being offended at this book, as it has so little relation to Pride and Prejudice that it hangs alone.]

I honestly felt that were it not for McCullough's reputation this novel would never have been published. It should not have been. Choppy, lacking direction, full of frankly bizarre twists and manufactured incidents, it lacks flow, interesting characters or character development. Had it not been for the author's previous works I'd have abandoned it after just a few chapters. At one point the main character is somewhat abandoned by her author, and the sense is that it's not to pursue or develop any other plot line or characters, but simply because the author didn't have anywhere to take her.

I kept hanging on... hoping for some redeeming feature, but in the end there was nothing. I am left feeling sad. I can only hope that the next book by this generally gifted author lives up to her talent.

Truly, truly, give this a miss... it can only take away from the reputation of a great story-teller. Two, in fact.
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