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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
3.5 out of 5 stars (26 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"Ingenious.... Mary B is a tribute not just to [Jane] Austen but to defiant women of any era." (USA Today)

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

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by Real Simple

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

“Charming and smart...a heedless downhill pleasure - plush, ironic and illuminating.” (Newsday)

“Watching [Mary] come into her own is a delight.” (People)

“A new, wholly original perspective on the classic.... This is the ultimate Austen adaptation for our time.” (Real Simple)

“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)

©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

What members say

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LOVED IT! Completely transported me far away.

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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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 .

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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.

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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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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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  • Devaki Khanna
  • 10-14-18

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.