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Sunday, September 26

Jane Austen Rip Off Throwdown

I finally read Colleen McCullough's The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, which came out several years ago. Here's my review, which is based on the one I placed on Goodreads:

Imagine an author, Colleen McCullough, whose bestsellers like The Thornbirds, have made her rich and famous. Imagine another author, Jane Austen, whose novels did not make her rich and who became famous only decades after her death. The second author inspires a booming industry 200 years later that makes a profit for publishers who have been busily spinning off sequels and prequels and mashups, and for producers of films, plays and musicals.

The impulse that made Colleen McCullough jump on the Jane Austen bandwagon should have remained inside of her. This novel purports to be about Mary Bennet, the least pretty or interesting of the Bennet sisters. McCullough's book places Darcy's and Elizabeth's marriage in jeopardy, turns Jane Bingley into a breeding sow and Elizabeth into a boring person. Lydia is a whorish wife who sleeps around, Kitty is insufferable, and Darcy's son and heir is unable to stand up to his harsh father.  All traces of Mary's pedantic personality have disappeared, and she has actually become quite pretty (how this was accomplished I can't remember, but it had something to do with an operation on her pocky skin). After Mrs. Bennet's death, Mary throws off the mantle of wimpish responsibility and becomes an independent spirit desired by men.

Darcy, who in Pride and Prejudice doted on his sister Georgianna, is hugely disappointed with Elizabeth's performance as a breed cow, for she had the bad grace to deliver three daughters before his son and heir was born. McCullough's Darcy lacks any resemblance to the caring, responsible  man worshiped by his doting housekeeper, Mrs. Reynolds, and beloved by Elizabeth Bennet and his good friend Charles Bingley.

Devoid of Jane Austen's colorful characters or wit, the plot of this odd novel plods along  a tired, predictable and formulaic road. I hated wasting my precious life on this book, but had to see if it would get better. It did not. 

Look, had this book been another Colleen McCullough original, without the association to Pride and Prejudice, it would have stood on its own merit. But, with its pretend relationship to Jane Austen's characters, it is a colossal rip off, monetarily speaking. Potential readers who purchase this book will assume that the characters continue where Jane's left off, and that they will have retained a smidgen of their original personalities. Nope. McCullough totally ignores the future Jane had mapped out for the Darcys, Bingleys, and Bennets, and took them into her own brooding Thornbirdy territory. 

I don't need happily ever afters in my books. Still, the cynicism that went behind this production is breathtaking - the publisher and McCullough must have raked in a great deal of cash before the public realized that this product was meant to be a cash rip off, not an homage to Jane.

Today's question is this: If you have read the book do you agree with my assessment? If you have not read the book, are you inspired to read it (just to see what I'm fussing about?) or will you keep on ignoring it?

For those who are now anxious to read The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, Alibris offers a hardback copy for $.99. I know that's a steep price, but I couldn't find a free copy.

The Independence of Mary Bennet
I read it and hated it
I read it and didn't finish it
I read it and ... gee, I forgot the plot
I read it and liked it
I loved it. Get over yourself.
I didn't read it, but want to read it now.
I didn't read it, but $.99 is too much to spend
I didn't read it and never will. Thanks for saving me the trouble. free polls


Scarlett O'Hara said...

This book is horrible. I read The Independence of Mary Bennet and it was a waste of time.

Kolein said...

Thank you for your assessment. Sorry you had to suffer so!

I will NEVER read it.

Love your blog!!!!


Debbi said...

I appreciate your honest appraisal. Your comment, " this product was meant to be a cash rip off, not an homage to Jane." . . .was, I felt particularly astute. The Jane Austen sequels, rewrites, whatever, are there to appeal to us, her loyal subjects, and we expect personalities to develop maybe, but never to be altered to the point of becoming unrecognizable . . . Thank you for your frank assessment.

I am curious . . . have you read The Jane Austen Book Club? I was so appalled that I just trashed it . . . mere pages into it. Here's a link to my humble "review", {which really was not a review, rather a random blog post that took off in that direction} . . . What is your opinion?
I was simply appalled.

Heather Carroll said...

I was actually interested in this book, it sounded like an interesting concept, but thank goodness I didn't pursue it now. Thanks for the honest review!

Dana Huff said...

So tell us how you really feel, and don't hold back (hee, hee!). Seriously though, thanks for saving me the trouble. I trust your insights.

Anonymous said...

i moved on from CM many years ago but my interest was sparked when this came out. I thought someone like her could do something great with this character - this concept. I'm glad I never got around to it though.

Truly I think a novel based on Mary could be a spectactularly good idea. Could be.

Nonna said...

As usual, the wonderful and awesome Jane Austen Today has remained faithful and true to our dear Jane and her vision for the future of her story and characters...only then may we as readers use our own imaginations to continue the story.

I think it is very arrogant when writers think they can take classics and twist them to their own whims, fancies and to reap untold millions from other writer's works.

I thank you for saving us all the trouble of wondering if we should read this obvious on review !!!