In which Teresa AF actually does have that coronary

Colleen McCullough has written a new book:  The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet.  After reading the description and excerpt at Amazon, I think I’m also going to need a stiff drink.

From Publishers Weekly…

McCullough’s (The Thorn Birds) sequel to Pride and Prejudice vaults the characters of the original into a ridiculously bizarre world, spinning dizzily among plot lines until it finally crashes to a close. The novel begins 20 years after Austens classic ends, with Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy trapped in a passionless marriage, Jane a spineless baby machine, Lydia an alcoholic tramp, Kitty a cheerfully vapid widow and Mary a naïve feminist and social crusader. Shrewish Mrs. Bennet’s death frees Mary from her caretaker duties,  (Umm, did not Miss Austen provide an ending for Mary opposite to this? -Ed.), inspired by the writings of a crusading journalist, Mary sets off to document the plight of Englands poor. Along the way, she is abused, robbed and imprisoned by the prophet of a cave-dwelling cult. Darcy is the books villain, (Had to snort. -Ed.) and he busies himself with hushing up the Bennet clans improprieties in service of his political career. His dirty work is carried out by Ned Skinner, whose odd devotion to Darcy (Umm… don’t you mean: Henleigh Grancourt! *snort*-Ed.) drives his exploits, the nastiest of which involves murder. McCullough lacks Austen’s gently reproving good humor, making the family’s adventures into a mannered spaghetti western with a tacked-on, albeit Austenesque, happy ending.

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OK.  So, I had to laugh a bit, because I, in one of my sleep deprived moments envisioned a story where Darcy and Elizabeth’s passions had cooled.  But a murderer? (she says in her best Gollum voice).  Even I am not that cruel.

Then comes the Amazon product description itself:

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Product Description
Everyone knows the story of Elizabeth and Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. But what about their sister Mary? At the conclusion of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Mary, bookish, awkward, and by all accounts, unmarriageable, is sentenced to a dull, provincial existence in the backwaters of Britain. Now, master storyteller? Colleen McCullough rescues Mary from her dreary fate with The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, a page-turning sequel set twenty years after Austen’s novel closes. The story begins as the neglected Bennet sister is released from the stultifying duty of caring for her insufferable mother. Though many would call a woman of Mary’s age a spinster, she has blossomed into a beauty to rival that of her famed sisters. (How convenient!-Ed.) Her violet eyes and perfect figure (pa-leese! -Ed.) bewitch the eligible men in the neighborhood

[…]

Meanwhile, the other dearly loved characters of Pride and Prejudice fret about the missing Mary while they contend with difficulties of their own. Darcy’s political ambitions consume his ardor, and he bothers with Elizabeth only when the impropriety of her family seems to threaten his career. Lydia, wild and charming as ever, drinks and philanders her way into dire straits; Kitty, a young widow of means, (What! after marrying a clergyman? -Ed.) occupies herself with gossip and shopping; and Jane, naïve and trusting as ever, (Poor Jane. -Ed.) spends her days ministering to her crop of boys and her adoring, if not entirely faithful, husband.

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OK!  Here I have to stop and ask: Is Ms. McCullough channeling the works of Ms Berdoll or Ms Tennent?  Because quite frankly, the philandering Bingley angle has been beaten to death.

I said that I was going to keep an open mind and read this book, but on second thought, I’ll stick to Jane Austen fan fiction.

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5 thoughts on “In which Teresa AF actually does have that coronary

  1. I’ve heard it’s just awful, and I like McCullough–her Rome series anyway. Why anyone of her reputation would write an Austen sequel just because it’s Austen and not because she likes the material baffles me.

  2. I liked her First Man In Rome series, but this sounds like badly overheated fan fiction from a Lizzy Bennet hater.

    I’d much rather read FTLOJ. Hint hint hint.

  3. I’ll admit it (as if people didn’t already know) I am hyper-critical about sequels written by literary authors anyway, so I was bound to find fault with it (and apparently, for me, reading it is not a requirement) This going rogue business, meaning going off on their own tangent: like making Mary “the dreaded spinster” (when we all know that she wasn’t) …well, authors would do well to “gird their loins.”

    I was into Colleen McCullough years ago, but got away from her and developed an “author crush” on Alice Hoffman around that time, so actually I was looking forward to rediscovering Colleen. Pity.

    K: I was working on FTLOJ last night and had a slight panic attack when I could not think of one rational thing for Darcy to say to Elizabeth about Col. F’s behavior. On the other hand, I have PLENTY of scenes between J and CF and J and LW and J and the children…

  4. A Darcy shrug can sometimes be as eloquent as words. Pretty concise, too, giving you more space for Jane and her beaux to sort things out themselves. 😉

  5. I ended up just cutting it down. I always hate writing the D&E scenes when J’s scene are much more relevant to the story.

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