The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
When her sisters marry, and her father’s death renders them homeless, Mary and her mother are beholden to each other and the whims of their relations. It seems that Mary can’t find friendship, never mind love. For a while, she makes herself useful to the heirs of Longbourn, the clergyman Mr Collins and his wife Charlotte Lucas, until Lady Catherine de Bourgh threatens to find her situation as a governess. Mary flees to London to find a bolthole with Aunt Gardiner’s family and the tentative beginnings of a new life.
Janice Hadlow’s debut novel begins as a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from a neglected point of view, rehabilitating not only dour Mary but scheming Charlotte Lucas, oleaginous Mr Collins and shadowy Aunt Gardiner. It then moves into its own as Mary is herself transformed into a convincing Austen heroine, both endearing to the reader and suitably flawed. On the road to marriage she must overcome the shame bred in her by a loveless childhood and drop the intellectual defence which has served as her only shield. She must learn to love herself for the very qualities others have despised in her and to distinguish truth from falsehood in a society where artifice is all. It’s a long read, and a very satisfying one. Thanks to publishers Mantle for my review copy.
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
From the window, she sees the street violence, including, although she understands less than the reader, the murder of the activist Malcom X. But as chaos reigns in the Dominican Republic, America might be marginally safer than the country she left behind. Her husband’s brutality and sharp temper might be no worse than her mother’s, although her mother’s harsh punishments didn’t include rape.
A dutiful daughter, Ana has acquiesced to the arrangement whereby she’s been sold to a man almost twice her age. For Juan, and his three brothers, it’s been about acquiring prime building land; for Mamá, it’s about a foothold for family in the promised land. So Ana doesn’t mention the loneliness, the boredom, the fear. To anyone who cares to look, she’s the dutiful wife. But she craves an identity beyond this: can she find a better outlet for her mind and her heart?
A coming-of-age story about migration and self-sacrifice, longlisted for the Women’s Prize, I received a proof copy from UK publishers, John Murray. For my reviews of other novels on the Women’s Prize longlist, click on the images below. (Presented roughly in order of preference.)