In Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet is the classic middle child. She is neither beautiful like Jane, witty like Lizzie or outrageous like Kitty and Lydia. Like her sisters, she knows that she must marry well to survive, but without looks or fortune, she knows that the chances of marrying well, if at all are slim to none.
This is the premise of the new novel, Mary B: A Novel: An untold story of Pride and Prejudice.Written by Katherine J. Chen, the book tells Mary’s story before, during and after the events in Pride and Prejudice. As she watches three of her sisters marry, Mary knows that she will forever be the spinster sister dependent on others for her needs. Her only solace is her books and the story in her head that she begins to write.
Then life begins to imitate art and Mary’s voice as a smart and independent woman begins to shine through.
I had high expectations for this book. In terms of Pride and Prejudice characters, Mary is often given the short shrift. It was nice to hear her perspective on the world. However, I had two points of contention that I have no choice but to bring up. The first is that there was language and certain phrasing that was too modern for Georgian England. The second was Colonel Fitzwilliam. Without giving away the plot, I felt like his narrative and specific character arc did not ring true when compared to how he was portrayed in the original novel. In Pride and Prejudice, Colonel Fitzwilliam is outgoing and jovial. His cousin, Mr. Darcy, is perceived in a good chunk of the novel as surely and anti-social. In this book, Colonel Fitzwilliam is closer to Mr. Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility or Mr. Churchill in Emma than he is to how Jane Austen introduced us to in Pride and Prejudice.
Pride and Prejudice is the book that Jane Austen is most famous for. It is the story of the rocky courtship between Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Published in 1813, it remains a beloved classic more than two centuries after its initial publishing.
Recently, a stage version of the book premiered at the Cherry Lane Theater in New York City. Written by actor/playwright/Janeite Kate Hamill (who also stars as Elizabeth Bennet), the play is the story of the middle class Bennet sisters who are in need of husbands. With no brother to directly secure the family estate for the next generation and very small dowries to call their own, they have only one choice and that is to marry well. Eldest sister Jane (Amelia Pedlow, who also plays Miss De Bourgh) catches the eye of the newest bachelor in town, Mr. Bingley (John Tufts, who also plays Mary Bennet). Elizabeth is unhappily introduced to Fitzwilliam Darcy (Jason O’Connell), Bingley’s best friend. They don’t exactly get along.
This play is nothing short of brilliant. Using a small stage, actors playing multiple characters and Austen’s text (for the most part), the play is well worth a few hours of your time. I will warn that Ms. Hamill did make some changes that do not exactly adhere to the cannon, but the changes were well worth it.
I absolutely recommend it.
Pride and Prejudice is playing at The Cherry Lane Theater at 38 Commerce Street in New York City until January 6th, 2018. Check the website for showtimes and ticket prices.
*-This post contains spoilers about Downton Abbey. If you do not like spoilers and have not caught up to the most recent episode, you are reading at your own risk.
With the final episode of Downton Abbey airing in the United States tomorrow night, I’ve been thinking about a few things.
We need to drop the #PoorEdith hashtag. What I realized is that Edith is one of those characters who despite multiple setbacks, just keeps on moving forward. Whether it was crushing on Matthew (whom she lost to Mary), getting engaged to Sir Anthony (who dumped her at the alter) or getting involved and getting pregnant by Michael Gregson, who was older, married and is no longer of this world, her barometer in choosing men is not quite working. Edith has classic middle child syndrome. She is the Mary Bennet of Downton Abbey and the Jan Brady of BPD’s (British Period Drama). She is not the beauty of the family like her elder sister, nor was she rebellious enough to choose her own path like her late youngest sister. She was simply Edith. If I could write Edith’s story line for the sixth series, I would have her go her own way and create her own happiness. Frankly, after all she has been through, she deserves a little happiness.
There are some among the fan base who would like to see Mary and Tom get together. I disagree.
Mary and Tom do have a lot in common. They are around the same age, they are both single parents due to the fact that they both lost their spouses early in their children’s lives and their long term goal is to ensure that their children stay in Downton Abbey for many years to come. But they are ill matched as a romantic couple.
Looking at the series from a writing perspective, a Mary/Tom romance would cheapen the story. Julian Fellows has created these wonderfully complex and highly entertaining story lines. Yes, a Mary/Tom romance would be convenient and easy to write, but it would be too convenient and too easy. It is far more interesting as a viewer to see them with other characters in a romantic relationship while balancing their responsibilities as parents and caretakers of the legacy of the Crawleys.