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Book Review: Return to Longbourn - Shannon Winslow (2013)

The worst had happened, how will Mrs Bennet’s nerves cope? Mr Bennet has died and now Mr Tristan Collins is on his way to inherit the family home. Who is left at home to help their poor Mama? It seems that the responsibility falls with Mary – will she be forced to marry just to keep the roof over their heads? Will the new Mr Collins even want her? Can Mary Bennet really become the protagonist?

As an avid lover of all things Austen, (especially anything to do with 'Pride and Prejudice') my anticipation to find out what happened to the remaining Bennet females when Lizzy, Jane, even Lydia, went off to live their lives as married women was ignited as I began to read.

After a slow start, I began to gobble up this continuation of Austen's classic novel. It was interesting to see the character of Mary Bennet become centre stage and although I didn't always agree with the interpretation of her character, the surprising romantic and sensitive side of the most serious of Miss Bennet’s was enjoyable to read.

As with all of Austen's novels, there were of course a selection of strong male characters, in particular Tristan Collins and Harrison Farnsworth.

The new ‘Mr Collins' was at first quite a mysterious character. His life in America was undisclosed for the most part but, despite this quite secretive nature, he was a likeable man - a cross between Mr Bingley and Denny. In contrast, Harrison Farnsworth - strong and proud - became the Mr Rochester of the text. Indeed, the novel does hold a number of similarities with Bronte's famous work.

Of course, the crucial resurrection of the old characters such as Lizzy, Kitty and Mr Darcy  - Charlotte Lucas even makes an appearance - do not fail to please.However, the star of the novel, capturing the essence of Austen's original, was Mrs Bennet. At her best in this novel,  she is exactly as Austen created her - often making me laugh aloud when talking to poor Mary.

If you enjoy an 'Austenesque' read, along with familiar characters and enjoy seeing a somewhat minor character come to life, then you are sure to be hooked. Not an easy read to begin with but you will soon be addicted once again to the world of balls, marriage and Mrs Bennet’s nerves.

By Arline Mellor


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