A Match for Mary Bennet: Can a serious young lady ever find her way to love? by Eucharista Ward, O.S.F.
Elizabeth Bennet Darcy’s younger sister, Mary, is quite a serious girl. She has seen a younger sister run off with a many who is not her husband and has sworn not to even mention her name again and she has seen two sisters marry respectably, but did they really love their husbands or did they marry simply to provide for their younger sisters down the road? While all the world(read Mrs. Bennet) seems to be pushing her toward the altar, she’d like nothing better than to read, play the pianoforte, and spend time with her family. She will not lower herself to do the frivolous things that her sister Kitty does to catch a man’s attention and she is much too modest to wear the latest fashion. She is convinced that marriage – say nothing of childbirth – is not for her and she sets about making herself a welcome guest in her sisters’ homes in order to thank them for the sacrifices they made for her. Will she ever see that her black and white and sometimes wrong view of life may not be serving her well?
It has been such a long time since I’ve read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, but I know that it has quite a following. There are Darcy sequels galore and, until recently, I’ve not been very interested. When Danielle from Sourcebooks sent information about A Match for Mary Bennet, I could not pass it up. What fascinated me about it was that it was an inspirational sequel written by Eucharista Ward, O.S.F., a Roman Catholic nun. The Regency era is not a Roman Catholic one and I had to find out more. I’m glad that I took the chance. Her writing was crisp and clean and paced in such a way as to remind me of Austen’s novels. It is full of humor, too. The first lines of the prologue made me laugh and reminded me immediately of Mrs. Bennet’s character:
One might say that using the divine gift of human memory for the recitation of three-month-old annoyances represents talent misspent. Mary Bennet thought, as she sat with her hand poised over the silver tea urn, that not even all four evangelists together had documented Jesus’s public life as thoroughly as her mother insisted on recounting Mary’s social life.
As soon as I finished those lines I was pretty certain that this was going to be a novel I would enjoy.
In 2007, I reviewed a memoir called Without a Map. In it, Meredith Hall remembers her life as a pregnant teenager who ultimately places her first born son for adoption. As a mother of two daughters and an adoptive mother, reading that memoir infuriated me. The 1960s weren’t that long ago, but I could not get over how cold and cruel Hall’s parents and physicians were. A reader left a comment asking me if Without a Map changed my opinion about Pride and Prejudice and how Georgiana and Lydia were portrayed. I remembered that comment when I first picked this book up. That aspect was actually the most inspirational aspects of this novel. Upon the advice of Mr. Collins, Mary has refused to even speak her sister Lydia’s name because of the disgrace she caused herself. She believed that doing so would cause her to realize the error of her ways and repent. Not long after she meets Mr. Oliver, the new vicar at Kympton, brought up her quite obvious attitude toward Lydia. As gently as was his nature, he prompted her to think further about her stance and question its validity.
A Match for Mary Bennet explores the young adulthood of a woman who didn’t find marriage desirable in a world where marrying off one’s daughters was the highest priority. It is a charming novel that also updates the reader on the entire extended Bennet clan. There was nothing rushed about this novel, but it wasn’t drawn out either. If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you’ll be comfortable with the characters and it was interesting to see how forgiveness and misconceptions come into play. Eucharista Ward has written a novel that is as entertaining as it is inspirational. I wish I could have relaxed and read it at a much lazier pace. It would make a great book to read in the backyard underneath a shady tree.
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