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By Gretchen SLP on 11-14-15
Terrific Idea for Greatest Backstory Never Told
Would you try another book from Jane Juska and/or Lindy Nettleton?
I've read Jane Juska's Round-Heeled Woman and loved it; read Unaccompanied Women and loved it less well--not because the writing was in any way flawed, but only because it was sad and depressing in its truthful depiction of the dating life and limited romantic prospects of a single female in her sixties/seventies. This book fell short in a different way; the story, which should have flowed like milk given its relatively simple premise, was incoherent and hard to follow. The story actually devolved into a kind of confused mess after awhile. Its chapters are told from alternating viewpoints (his and hers), which could be the basis for a solid and amusing story. However, the two ostensible narrators are sometimes relating the same story word for word (not just boring, not just improbable, but IMPOSSIBLE that two different people would retell the same anecdote using identical wording), in at least one instance re-telling the same exact story (that of Mrs Bennet seducing Mr Bennet) THREE different times in succession: First, Mr Bennet relates the story in a letter to his brother, then Mrs Bennet tells the same story in the same words in a letter to her sister, and then Mr Bennet tells it again in the pages of his diary! It was as if the author literally forgot that she had already told the story twice!! But more often, the two ostensible narrators are relating a story that is confusing and contradictory even within a single chapter, and/or across several chapters. For example, in one chapter, Mrs. Bennet relates in a letter to her sister that she has allowed Colonel Millar to take full advantage of her (have sex with her) during her visit to Bath. Four or five chapters later, she writes to her sister and details a scene in which she allows Colonel Millar to undress her completely and have his way with her--FOR THE FIRST TIME--on a sofa in his room. Other bizarre inconsistencies include Mrs. Bennet simultaneously suffering a miscarriage while remaining pregnant (with the author attempting to convince us this is plausible by explaining that the babies were twins, with one twin spontaneously aborted and one carried to term), Mrs Littleworth somehow simultaneously paying every dressmaker and milliner to the penny and precisely on time/promptly and yet racking up huge debts (on Mrs Bennet's behalf, somehow, in an arrangement that makes no sense even after her lengthy explanation) to all of Bath's dressmakers and milliners, and Colonel Millar fathering Jane and then failing to recognize Mrs Bennet once she is married to Mr Bennet and is his neighbor, then seeming to recognize both her and the too-familiar-looking Jane at a village festival, then failing to recognize her as Mrs Bennet a few months later in Bath, then recognizing her as Mrs Bennet but utterly denying any awareness of his paternity of Jane a few weeks or months later.
Has Mrs. Bennet Has Her Say turned you off from other books in this genre?
No. The genre itself is not at fault. I'm terribly sorry to have to report that the fault is the author's; this book has an absolute mess of a plot!
How did the narrator detract from the book?
The narrator is DREADFUL. She sounds like a stuffy, haughty old British lady preposterously attempting to make her voice high pitched and girlish for the chapters told from the point of view of the teenaged Mrs Bennet, and bizarrely, artificially low-pitched (as if she's imitating a deep-voiced old codger) when reading the part of the twentysomething Mr Bennet. AND DONT GET ME STARTED ON THE LATIN EPIGRAPHS that begin each Mr Bennet chapter!! She reads them in the same fake-deep old man voice, but suuuuuper sllllloooooowwwwwwly, as if Mr Bennet is stupidly attempting to sound out each unfamiliar word, syllable by syllable. If she had deliberately attempted to bore the reader, she could not possibly have succeeded more brilliantly.
If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Mrs. Bennet Has Her Say?
Almost all of them, especially the sex with the prostitute on the bridge (and Mr B's subsequent disgusting bout of venereal disease), the totally unnecessary miscarriage scene, and Mrs Bennet going crazy at the end, turning seemingly turning bipolar for no discernible reason.
Any additional comments?
This story did cry out to be written, for the sake of Austen fans everywhere, and it's such a shame it wasn't done well. The plot could have coherently explained the central mystery of why Mr Bennet appears to love only Lizzy (or at best, Lizzy and Jane) and show only scorn and contempt for his other daughters in the later world of Pride and Prejudice. If Mrs Bennet is going to be a total floozy willing to have sex with Colonel Millar while married to Mr Bennet, and if he is going to discover their relationship, why not go all the way and have Colonel Millar revealed to be the father of all three of the despised youngest sisters? That would have been funny and also would have explained why Mary, Kitty, Lydia, and to some extent Jane are all relative simpletons, while only Lizzy inherited Mr Bennet's sparkling wit and raw intelligence. "But alas, it was NOT TO BE," as the young Mr Bennet (in a voice sounding many decades older than his character) would say.
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