There's Something About Mary BennetThe things that make Pride and Prejudice’s middle sister so unappealing as a supporting character are precisely what make her compelling as a star.
Poor Mary. When she pays attention to her at all, Pride and Prejudice’s narrator describes the middle Bennet sibling—younger sister to Jane and Elizabeth, older sister to Kitty and Lydia—as someone who, possessing neither “genius nor taste,” often “wished to say something very sensible,” but—oof—“knew not how.” Mary navigates the world with “a pedantic air and conceited manner, which would have injured a higher degree of excellence than she had reached.” (Ooooof.) A little bit Mr. Collins, a little bit Lady Edith, a little bit Tracy Flick, Mary is at once introverted and attention-hungry, well-read and insipid, vain and insignificant. She is also, her novel’s acerbic storyteller makes a point of informing us, “the only plain one in the family.”
In spite of all this, though, recent years have seen a proliferation of Mary-related—and, indeed, Mary-focused—fiction. There’s 2009’s The Independence Of Miss Mary Bennet, an exploration of the escapades Mary enjoyed after her sisters were married, written by Colleen McCullough, the other of The Thorn Birds. There’s Jennifer Paynter’s 2014 The Forgotten Sister: Mary Bennet’s Pride and Prejudice, which narrates the events of Austen’s novel from Mary’s point of view. There’s also Pamela Mingle’s The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel, which offers Mary an alternate romantic subplot. And A Match For Mary Bennet, which does the same. ( to read the rest )