The Forgotten Sister- Jennifer Paynter

Synopsis (from amazon)

As a middle child flanked by two pairs of closely bonded sisters, marginalized by her mother, and ridiculed by her father, Mary Bennet feels isolated within her own family. She retreats to her room to read and play the pianoforte and, when obliged to mix in society, finds it safer to quote platitudes from books rather than express her real opinions. She also finds it safer to befriend those who are socially “beneath” her. When wealthy Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley glide into her sisters’ lives, Mary becomes infatuated with an impoverished young musician, the son of her old wet-nurse, who plays the fiddle at the Meryton assemblies.

It is only after her sisters tease her about her “beau with the bow” that Mary is forced to examine her real feelings and confront her own brand of pride and prejudice.


I liked the idea of The Forgotten Sister. Mary Bennet is a pretty marginalised character in Pride and Prejudice (so is Kitty, she is basically Lydia’s shadow), but I wonder what makes her so much different from her sisters.

Paynter tries to address this problem, and she does, to a point. However she makes the other sisters (especially Elizabeth) seem pretty horrible in turn, and that just doesn’t seem canon to me. Surely if Elizabeth really disliked Mary that would come up in Pride and Prejudice itself?

For a long time I didn’t really like Mary, although by the end I did. Actually it sort of reminded me of Little Women, but with just one main character. The end didn’t seem quite to fit with the rest of the story either. Mary didn’t seem so much like Mary from it, or at least the Mary of the rest of the story. However I did get more into the story by the end, so I was enjoying it, despite inconsistency.

I think a problem with writing sequels to books by other authors is that it’s hard to get the tone right, and (especially with well known books like Pride and Prejudice) everybody already has their own ideas, and their own like and dislikes about the original book- which are hard not to hit on when another person writes about a book.


Buy it:

Kindle (£3.49)

Paperback (£6.57)


Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Historical

2 responses to “The Forgotten Sister- Jennifer Paynter

  1. A lot of authors seem to be interested in the ‘back story’ of Pride and Prejudice. I haven’t read this one, but do think that Mary is an interesting character, a bit of a cuckoo in the nest. I think Austen wants us to see her as dull but with pretentions of erudition, and the portrayal seems a little harsh – it makes you wonder “What if…” .
    Austen can be very forthright about her characters’ faults. Perhaps this author wants to give Mary a better write-up. I agree it’s a place where angels fear to tread – on readers’ own imaginings of a classic. Does she try to write like Austen?

    The best fictional comment on a classic I have read is ‘The Wide Sargasso Sea’ by Jean Rhys, about Mr Rochester’s first wife.


  2. Pingback: Sunday Surfing 31/8/14 | Lucybird's Book Blog

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