The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow. A new perspective on Pride and Prejudice, this tells the story of Mary Bennet who had the misfortune to be borne plain, but smart, which was not a quality valued for women in that era. It is a sad fact of life that if a young woman is unlucky enough to come into the world without expectations, she had better do all she can to ensure she is born beautiful. To be handsome and poor is misfortune enough; but to be both plain and penniless is a hard fate indeed. On the occasion of her father’s death she becomes homeless as there were no male heirs and so his estate passes to a nephew and poor old Mary is thrown out, looking for a place to call home. It’s beautifully done and will appeal to anyone who loved the original – full of the period mores and with the full cast of characters that we’ve all come to love – Mr Darcy, Mr Collins, Longbourn (the family home) and the rest.
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener. True story by a young woman who in 2013 left her job with a literary agency in NYC and went to San Francisco to work for an e-book start up run by young men who were totally uninterested in reading books. That job led to another move where she worked in customer support at a data analytics start-up, then at a start-up that focused on software development. She writes about the employee perks at the office (“a miniature theme park” with a wraparound bar, a roof deck, a speakeasy) and of how she struggled to be taken seriously in a male-dominated industry; attended ludicrously lavish work events while San Francisco’s homeless population increased; of the weird cultures pervasive in these places – she and her colleagues communicated using just emojis; and watched 20-somethings get rich overnight. It’s a cautionary tale, and it’s really good.