Review by A Baja Janeite
Mary Bennet is quite satisfied. Now that Lizzy and Jane have married wealthy men, Mary can ignore her mother’s schemes to find Mary a husband. She can withdraw into her music and books. She no longer has to worry about her fate when Longbourn is invaded by the Collins’ family. She need never marry. Well, at least that is what Mary hopes…
Two very different men become part of Mary’s life.
Stephen Oliver, gentle and intuitive, glories in his vocation as a minister. He asks Mary to help him, but she is not sure that she even likes him. Kitty likes him, but would she make a proper clergyman’s wife?
Dashing and wealthy, James Stilton begs Mary to be his wife. What is his motive? Is it love or something else?
Advertised as an “inspirational Pride and Prejudice sequel,” A Match for Mary Bennet centers on the third Bennet sister. Eucharista Ward lovingly develops Mary’s character from the reflective pedant encountered in P&P to a wiser, independent woman. Lizzy, Jane and their husbands are now minor characters, but we follow their growing families and tragedies as these events touch Mary’s life. Ward introduces a neighborhood kleptomaniac and fortune hunters who add humor and tension to the plot.
A Match for Mary Bennet is written in a narrative style similar to P&P, although the author sometimes uses a stream of consciousness technique. To my delight, the author alludes to P&P incidents and dialogue at very apt times. She mentions titles of music and books popular during the Regency period. My only criticisms are that the book is a slow read at times, and Lizzy is not the same. Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Collins, Lydia and many others, however, remain true to character and amuse and irritate us in turn. Overall, I enjoyed this novel very much.
What makes this sequel “inspirational”? Marriage and integrity are honored. Sex is alluded to as a pleasurable, even fun, benefit of marriage. Church attendance is expected. These are values consistent with Jane Austen’s novels. Perhaps, the most inspirational part is the author herself. A Sylvania Franciscan nun, Eucharista Ward retired from teaching high school English and now works as a nurse’s aide for an assisted living program. She wrote this book while working night shift, caring for other retired sisters. Now, that is truly inspiring!
Additional note: Don’t miss the mention of Uncle Phillip’s law clerk at the end of the book- not quite what James Edward Austen-Leigh’s book prophesied!