Colleen McCullough, a native of Australia, established the department of neurophysiology at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney before working as a researcher at Yale Medical School for ten years. She is the bestselling author of numerous novels, including The Thorn Birds, and lives with her husband on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific.
The author of The Thorn Birds and the "Masters of Rome" series here imagines the lives of the five Bennet sisters 20 years after the conclusion of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. McCullough tears apart the romance between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy only to reconstruct it, and she remakes Miss Mary as a 19th-century feminist and advocate for the downtrodden. She makes an unintentional farce out of the story, destroying the charm of the original characters and placing them in ridiculous situations. This audiobook's only positive aspect is the excellent narration by actress/Seattle disc jockey Jen Taylor, who nails the British accent and gives each character a distinct voice. Only for those listeners who don't truly love the original story. [The S. & S. hc was recommended "more for McCullough's fans than Miss Jane's," LJ 1/09.-Ed.]-Johannah Genett, Hennepin Cty. Libs., Minneapolis Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
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 Austen's 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 naOve feminist and social crusader. Shrewish Mrs. Bennet's death frees Mary from her caretaker duties, and, inspired by the writings of a crusading journalist, Mary sets off to document the plight of England's poor. Along the way, she is abused, robbed and imprisoned by the prophet of a cave-dwelling cult. Darcy is the book's villain, and he busies himself with hushing up the Bennet clan's improprieties in service of his political career. His dirty work is carried out by Ned Skinner, whose odd devotion to Darcy 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. (Jan.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
According to a recent poll of 15,000 Dymocks booklover members, Pride and Prejudice is considered one of the best books ever written and yet one that I am shamefaced to admit has never quite made it to the top of my reading pile. I start the review off with this embarrassing secret because it's a direct result of McCullough's fine 'sequel' that it's now moved into prime position. I also use it to illustrate the fact that it's entirely possible to enjoy this historical epic without having formally met the Bennet/Darcy clan. The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet picks up the story of the Bennet sisters 20 years after Jane Austen left off. However, as the title suggests, the story's focus is now on the newly liberated and long-neglected middle child, Mary. After 17 years of 'doing the right thing' looking after her twittering mother, Mary is a changed woman and has decided she would like to make a difference in the world. The comfortable, yet conveniently remote home that Mr Darcy selected to house his troublesome mother-in-law, came with a well-appointed library that no-one would have expected Mary to bother reading ... but read it she did. Thus armed with a righteous sense of the social injustice plaguing newly industrialised England Mary sets off to research the plight of the poor and the working-class for a book she intends to write. As the promotional blurb states, the resultant story is 'both a page-turning adventure and a cracking romance' and, as you would expect of an author of McCullough's talent, utilises many of the epic genre's strengths in a sophisticated and very well told manner. I particularly enjoyed the realistic portrayals of Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage and the descriptions of back roads of 19th-century England. The romantic subplot is not overbearing and the finer descriptions in keeping with the tonal sensibilities of the Georgian popular novel. Given the marketing push HarperCollins has committed to, I have no doubt this will be a successful book and it is nice to be able to say that, for once, it will deserve the hype. If asked for a one-line summary I suggest ... 'The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet combines Austen's loved characters with a Dickensian sensibility, added to the mix is some feminist spice resulting in a hearty yet delicious novel perfect for the Christmas market.' Rachel Wilson is an academic and occasionally works at the Sun Bookshop, Yarraville
A highly colored romp...it's fun to see Mary brought to life as an idealistic and unrealistic social reformer. -- The Washington Post