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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Monday, August 30, 2010

McCullough's The Independence of Mary Bennet

I have mentioned McCullough's The Independence of Mary Bennet in passing a couple of times, but now that I have assimilated the significance of my recent findings regarding Mary Bennet's role in the shadow story of P&P, I wanted to clarify what I think about McCullough's novel.

First, I don't particularly like her writing style,and I don't find her sense of character particularly interesting. And I gather from reviews I've read that her attention to historical details was not first rate.

However....despite those rather significant drawbacks, I wish to give credit where credit is due, and in this case, a great deal is due--because it is now 100% clear to me that Jane Austen herself intended for Mary Bennet's character to have a distinct shadow, which, when a light is shone on it, reveals her to be pretty much the character whom McCullough depicts--an ardent feminist and advocate for the poor and downtrodden, a true alter ego, in several ways, for Jane Austen herself. And that bis, in my eyes, a big deal. That is the shadow Mary Bennet. ways I will explain in my book, understanding the character of the shadow Mary Bennet also helped me confirm that another apparently crazy alteration made by McCullough, showing the Bingley family's wealth as being derived from a Jamaican slave plantation, is anything but crazy, but has been distinctly pointed to by JA.

And finally McCullough's depiction of Darcy as a politically ambitious jerk, and his more complicated relationship with Wickham, are also consistent with the shadow story of the novel as I have excavated it.

So, it seems to me that McCullough's primary motivation in writing her novel was to pay homage to JA's actual intentions. From my point of view, she only partially succeeded, because she gets certain parts of the shadow story wrong, but I applaud her attempt nonetheless.


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