In The Other Bennet Sister, Hadlow builds an immersive and engaging new version of a familiar world; her approach feels at once true to the source material and to life. In Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet, readers glimpse the person we might aspire to be – brilliant, beautiful, ending up with all the prizes – but in Hadlow’s Mary we recognise a more familiar figure: self-sabotaging, low on self-esteem, struggling to get through the day while others seem to sail effortlessly by. Hadlow’s great achievement is to shift our sympathies so completely that when happiness becomes a possibility for Mary, it’s difficult not to race through those final pages, desperate to know if she will, after all, be allowed – will allow herself – a happy ending.
An obvious labour of love, impeccably researched, this lifts Mary from obscurity, as she breaks out of her mother's world and follows her own path. Whether such an earnest, self-absorbed heroine merits quite such a lengthy account is with the jury.