Kessel, John. 2008. Pride and Prometheus, from The Baum Plan for Financial Independence. (Winner, Nebula in Novellette category)
"Had both her mother and her sister Kitty not insisted upon it, Miss Mary Bennet, whose interest in Nature did not extend to the Nature of Society, would not have attended the ball in Grosvenor Square."
Pride and Prometheus focuses on Mary Bennet, the often under appreciated sister of Elizabeth and Jane. Kessel describes her as, "Awkward and nearsighted, she had never cut an attractive figure, and as she had aged she had come to see herself as others saw her."
Kitty and Mary are the only unmarried Bennet sisters, and it isn't all that surprising that Mrs. Bennet won't be truly happy until Kitty finds a husband. (I doubt Mrs. Bennet has high expectations for Mary.)
At one of the ton parties, the two Bennet sisters are introduced to two gentleman: a Mr. Victor Frankenstein and a Mr. Henry Clerval. Mary's first impressions of Victor: "He had the darkest eyes that Mary had ever encountered, and an air of being there only on obligation. Whether this was because he was as uncomfortable in these social situations as she, Mary could not tell, but his diffident air intrigued her. She fancied his reserve might bespeak sadness rather than pride."
What does Mary think of Victor? What does Victor think of Mary? Can he find a sympathetic listener?
If you've read Frankenstein, you might be wondering where this fits in. The action of this story takes place AFTER Victor Frankenstein has had a heart-to-heart with his creation and promised 'the monster' a wife. This makes him sullen and cross, for the most part, but before he begins his work in earnest, he goes on holiday with his best friend, Henry Clerval. As to how this fits in with Austen, the action would take place several years at least after the close of Pride and Prejudice. (We do visit Mr. and Mrs. Darcy at Pemberley, and they already have children.)
What did I think of this one? It's complicated. Which isn't a fair answer, I know, but a true one. Kessel's Mary is intelligent and thoughtful. I liked that. Kessel's Kitty, well, it made me think at the very least. I hesitate to say too much. After all, if you've not read it, I don't want to spoil it for you. But I'll never look at Kitty quite the same way again. Is that a good thing? a bad thing? I don't know. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the matter if you've read this short story. I'm not sure what to think about Kessel's Frankenstein and his monster. I haven't decided if he captured their voices right or not. But I did *like* the conversation Mary has with the monster.
You can read this one online or download an audio file of the author reading this story.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews