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Breadcrumb Reads

This is the companion blog to my main book blog, Breadcrumb Reads. My reading tastes veer towards the classics, literary fiction, creative non-fiction and historical fiction.

The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet - Colleen McCullough Update as on 18 May 2011 - I decided to read the book through since I can't bare to leave a book unfinished.:-/

I was forewarned by the reviews that I had read. But I thought I would give this a try anyway...mainly because the author, Colleen McCullough, is a favourite of mine.

It was a disaster, this presumed sequel to Austen's well-loved Pride and Prejudice. I wanted, so much, to give McCullough a chance; I tried to make excuses for her; I tried to glean as much as I could of that age and say it was worth the effort. But no matter what, I've finished this book feeling quite disgusted and let down.

This novel read like any other Regency romance written by authors today. It was all saquerine and fluffy, and the Austen characters we know so well are nearly unrecognisable! McCullough has taken little things from P&P and exaggerated them into the people these characters become twenty years later. However, I see no fault in that except that she has made caricatures of these people - all of them are caricatures - the sisters and Darcy (Bingley isn't recognisable at all, not to mention that he never appears on the scene). Mary's love interest is your typical romance hero, though he is quite likable.

Even the way the plot plays out and the subplots as well, are very disconcerting, abrupt, and too neatly and unrealistically done. The characters, including the men, talk non-stop. They are all absolute rattlepates....more so than the women characters. Can you imagine Darcy talking and explaining and pontificating out loud and in a very pansy way?

I'm afraid I could find nothing to recommend in this book.

Written as on 7 May 2011
I am disappointed.

Worse than disappointed actually. What word could I possibly use to describe, not just the disappointment, but the revulsion I felt while reading the first chapter of The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet? That's all I have read of this novel, and this is all I will possibly ever read of this novel.

I don't read any of the fan fiction passing off as Jane Austen sequels, prequels and adaptations in the current market. There's a part of me that feels the essence of Austen could never be recaptured, and it is that very essence that has allowed her literature to survive for nearly 200 years, whilst her more famous contemporaries have dwindled out of sight and memory. Could anyone do Austen's characters and themes any justice? I'm very sceptical about that. But I figured if there was one person who could capture the mood and atmosphere of the early 19th century, thereby making up for the lack of Austen's touch with her characters, I thought it would be Colleen McCullough. She has a lovely writing style, and she is a wonderful story-teller.

However, there was nothing of the McCullough I've read before, present in this sequel to Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I was horrified right from the start. I didn't recognise the writing style, and I couldn't, for the life of me, take to the manner in which the first chapter was written to make things clear to the Austen reader, of the circumstance in each sister's situation seventeen years after the older Bennet sisters are married. I was prepared for something very different, I admit. I knew McCullough would give more detail of the period Austen wrote in - something we never glean from Austen's works at all. I was prepared for ghastly truths of that era which were always wrapped up in clean linen. I was prepared for a novel that was as different from Austen as could be, yet captured the spirit of those characters we are so well acquainted with.

What I wasn't prepared for was some inexperienced, school-girlish tripe that is more along the lines of a fan fiction Mary Sue. McCullough sets the stage for the sisters - Jane and Bingley are happy and as amiable as ever, always being guided by the domineering, self-willed 'Fitz' Darcy, who in turn is having a horrible marriage with Elizabeth. So far, these characters sound as absurdly unlike the characters of Austen, even should they be nearly twenty years older than the original. Then there is an exaggerated caricature of Lydia, and while Kitty is interesting in a way and well off as a wealthy widow, Mary turns out to be a beauty in the manner of her second older sister, Elizabeth. The novel opens with the death of Mrs Bennet, and we soon learn that the five sisters are seeing each other together after about fifteen years. Why? Because Darcy has kept them all apart! Apparently, he despises his wife's family so much that he has tyrannised them for years.

Oh, it's awful! Believe me, I haven't really given anything away. I have only read the first chapter and the above is the gist of it.

I cannot understand what happened to McCullough's story-telling ability. I looked up to see how old she was when she wrote this book and it would seem she was on the border of seventy. Perhaps senility could be her excuse? I don't know. I only know that I wish to bury my head in one of her earlier books if only to reassure myself that I wasn't wrong in my opinion of her the first time around.:-/