Several years ago, I decided to read Jane Austen’s novels. Over the course of a year, I enjoyed them all. Like many Austen fans, I have a special fondness for the Bennet sisters from Pride and Prejudice. Since first reading this classic, I have reread the book and experienced the story through the BBC movie many times. I am not alone in my interest. In the last few years, a renewed fascination with Jane Austen has led to an increase in the number of novels based on her works. Whether they are continuations of the original stories or present-day tales that involve Austen in some way, books connected to Austen are more popular than ever.
In The Unexpected Miss Bennet, author Patrice Sarath provides readers with the opportunity to visit Jane, Lizzy, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia one more. As the story opens, Jane and Bingley are living in London, Lizzy and Darcy are at Pemberley, and Lydia is far away, banished with Wickham. Kitty and Mary are left at home. Kitty is interested in society and eager to enter London’s social scene with the help of Jane, but shy Mary is not expected to follow suit. Although she prefers piano and books to balls and suitors, Mary worries about life as a spinster. Determined to give Mary a chance at happiness, Lizzy invites Mary to Pemberley for a season. During this time, Mary explores an independence that is new to her. As she learns about herself and her own desires, Mary surprises everyone, including well-known characters such as Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
The Unexpected Miss Bennet is a delightful continuation of Pride and Prejudice. At times, I felt that the author tried to copy Miss Austen’s style too closely (and who can truly copy Jane Austen?), but reading the novel felt like a visit with old friends. When I think of the Bennet sisters as depticted by Jane Austen, Mary and Kitty are the least memorable. I enjoyed following along as Patrice Sarath developed Mary into an accomplished young woman. I appreciated that most of the characters from Pride and Prejudice appeared in the tale, some with more prominent roles, and I thought the new characters added to the appeal as well.
The weather is colder–it is the perfect time to snuggle with a good book. The Unexpected Miss Bennet is a wonderful choice, and it would make a great gift for an Austen fan.
We have a copy to give away to one of you (U.S. and Canadian addresses eligible). Please leave a comment if you’d like to win. We’ll announce the winner in our giveaway column on December 14.
Lauren is a wife, mother of two, and an avid reader. She thanks Penguin Group for the review copy of this book. Lauren blogs at Baseballs and Bows.