If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you know Mary to be the middle, largely unnoticed sister of the five Bennet daughters. She is awkward and plain, with few social graces (if any). In fact, she’s only mentioned a handful of times in the original novel, making her seem more of a prop for Austen, simply adding to the desperation of the sisters to make wealthy matches.
In Pursuit, Mingle takes the character of Mary and gives her life. She ages Mary a few years, to the ripe and nearly-past marriageable age of 22. Her family has written her off to grow old a maid, to be forever the helper and caretaker of her sisters’ children.
But there is romance yet for Mary! During many visits to her sister Jane’s estate, she meets the handsome and eligible bachelor Henry Walsh. Her only-unmarried sister Kitty imagines herself in love with him, and at first resents the attention he gives Mary. But Kitty has her own destiny, and as a side story, it’s fun watching Kitty find a true love of her own.
Mary and Henry’s courtship mirrors Elizabeth and Darcy’s from P&P a bit, even including a failed first proposal. In my opinion, it lacks a little ingenuity. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a fun read. A friend called this book something like reading “the movie version” of a story. Even so, the story is engaging without the conflict being annoying and unrealistic.
The novel also shows us a bit of the lives of Elizabeth and Jane, happily married and parenting small children. Mary and Kitty spend a lot of time with them, maturing under their more balanced and wise outlooks on life. We also get to spend a lot of time with the impetuous and unwise Lydia, whose scandalous pregnancy by a man other than Wickham is a crux of the story.
In the end, on a scale of 5 stars, I give the book 4 stars for enjoyability, 3 stars for ingenuity, and 5 stars for being a fun dip in the world Pride and Prejudice leaves us longing to hang out in. It is a quick read. I finished it in three nights. Although, I often forsake sleep for a good book.
If you’re interested, and you want a refresher in the original story, I simply must recommend 1995’s BBC’s Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, and the incomparable Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth. It’s worth every minute of its five hours!