Having read three other novels by Colleen McCullough (The Touch, Morgan’s Run and The Thorn Birds, all of which were excellent), I expected a great story here, and was curious about what she would do with Mary Bennet 20 odd years after the close of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I was terribly disappointed. This would have to be one of the strangest books I’ve ever read, and I’m still not sure why I spend several days ploughing through to the end. *Spoilers ahead*
It was a promising start, opening with the death of Mrs Bennet which released Mary from her responsibilities. Inspired by the published letters of a man named Argus, Mary decides travel England to investigate the plight of the poor, with the intention of writing a book. I liked this premise…but from then on, the plot became more and more unexpected and ended up being quite ridiculous. It could have been a brilliant story…there were hints it could have touched on the subjects of slavery, and transportation to New South Wales, but alas, it didn’t and Mary in the end wasn’t independent at all. The end of the books leaves us with Mary married, with a child, and along with her sisters running two orphanages. The final page was so absurd I could hardly believe it.