It is a pleasure to welcome author Pamela Mingle here today at Austenprose. I had the pleasure of reading her new novel The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel months ago and was very pleased to supply the blurb in praise of this great novel. I felt it is the best continuation of Jane Austen’s character Mary Bennet so far, and I hope you will add it to must read list. Pamela has joined us today to talk about social awkwardness, something that some characters in Pride and Prejudice exhibit. Enter a chance to win a copy of this fabulous new Austenesque novel by leaving a comment. Details are listed below. Good luck to all, and congratulations to Pamela!
A tale of love and marriage, society balls and courtship, class and a touch of scandal, Pamela Mingle’s The Pursuit of Mary Bennet is a fresh take on one of the most beloved novels of all time, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Growing up with four extraordinary sisters—beautiful and confident Jane and Elizabeth, and flirtatious and lighthearted Lydia and Kitty—wasn’t easy for an awkward bookworm like Mary Bennet. But with nearly all of her sisters married and gone from the household, the unrefined Mary has transformed into an attractive and eligible young woman in her own right.
When another scandal involving Lydia and Wickham threatens the Bennet house, Mary and Kitty are packed off to visit Jane and her husband, Charles Bingley, where they meet the dashing Henry Walsh. Eager and naïve, Mary is confused by Henry’s attentions, even as she finds herself drawing closer to him. Could this really be love—or the notions of a foolish girl unschooled in the art of romance and flirtation?
At the JASNA AGM in Minneapolis, the phrase “socially awkward” was used several times in reference to a character in Pride and Prejudice. Mary Bennet, much on my mind these days, was surely the only person in the book who could justifiably be called socially awkward. She’s the clueless sister who frequently
embarrasses her family with her actions as well as her words. Mary’s smug moralizing on the difference between pride and vanity may be why Jane Austen describes her as “pedantic” and “conceited.” And we cringe as Mary lectures Elizabeth about the dangers of a lady sullying her reputation.
I was surprised, then, that the character everyone was referring to was none other than Mr. Darcy! Arrogant, reserved, disdainful—these are all terms I would have used to describe him, but never socially awkward. He’s too refined to be termed that. Isn’t he? Early in the novel he offends Elizabeth at the assembly, and his manner continues to be insulting, even when he proposes to her. Later in the book he admits that he does not have “…the talent which some people possess…of conversing easily with those I have never seen before…” Elizabeth famously tells him he should do what she herself does in these situations. Practice.
But perhaps it was time for me to re-think Mr. Darcy. I had always believed he knew how to behave, but it suited him to play the role of wealthy, snobbish gentleman when in society. Could it be that he simply lacked some of the social graces, like Mary Bennet? Their unease manifests differently, of course, but in many ways he is as “socially awkward” as she. Mr. Darcy, afraid of meeting new people, is haughty and reserved; Mary, held up to ridicule by her family, unwittingly makes herself ludicrous through her attempts to gain attention.
Jane Austen gave Mr. Darcy his chance to redeem himself, at least in Elizabeth’s eyes. He took her criticisms to heart, and because of the power of his love for her, he changed. This is most obvious when they unexpectedly encounter each other at Pemberley. It’s as if his social muse is standing on his shoulder telling him what to say, but he can’t quite get it right. He stumbles over his words and repeats himself. There is much at stake. He knows that to win Elizabeth, he has to go beyond his comfort zone, and he finally proves, with his deft handling of Lydia’s affair, that he’s capable of doing so.
In The Pursuit of Mary Bennet, I wanted to give Mary the opportunity to change. How would her life be different if she could see herself clearly and set herself a new course? She is on her way to a different, more independent life, when she’s thrown back into self-doubt by a suitor. Like Mr. Darcy, she stumbles along the way, but perseveres. The story is as much about Mary’s pursuit of a new identity as it is a lover’s pursuit of her affections.
Pamela Mingle, a former teacher and librarian, lives in Lakewood, Colorado. She is the author of Kissing Shakespeare, a time travel romance for young adults set in Elizabethan England (Delacorte Press, 2012). Pamela is a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Pikes Peak Writers, Romance Writers of America, and the Jane Austen Society of North America. She and her husband are frequent visitors to the United Kingdom, where they enjoy walking and visiting historical sites. Visit Pam at her website pammingle.com; on Facebook as Pam Mingle Author, and Twitter as @PamMingle.
The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride and Prejudice Novel, by Pamela Mingle
William Morrow (2013)
Trade paperback (320) pages
Cover image courtesy of William Morrow © 2013; text Pamela Mingle © 2013, Austenprose.com