Sanditon by Jane Austen

Last year, looking forward to the release of a new Andrew Davies’ TV adaptation of Sanditon, I thought it was high time I read Jane Austen’s unfinished manuscript it was to based on. I was lucky enough to pick up a cheap copy of a collection of Austen’s short/unfinished  works, on World of Books, so I have Lady Susan and The Watsons to look forward to reading later.

Sanditon, Austen’s last, incomplete fiction, is set in a small, up-and-coming seaside town, where the young Charlotte Heywood is brought for a visit by new acquaintances, Mr and Mrs Parker. Mr Parker is an enthusiastic entrepreneur, who dreams of making little Sanditon into the latest bathing resort. As Charlotte arrives the Parker family and their few neighbours are enthused with rumours that a large party from London are to arrive soon, including Miss Lambe, a ‘half-mulatto’ heiress from the West Indies. And sadly that’s where the surviving draft ends…

Many have taken from this fragmentary beginning of a novel that Austen was starting a new phase in her writing, as the style and content does seems a little rougher and edgier than her previous, finished novels. Backed up by the fact that Austen started writing this in 1817, when she was already very ill, which perhaps could have given her a new perspective to on life and writing. The content could also be explained by the changes in society and the rise of the speculative consumer at this time: a foreshadowing to the great upheaval of the impending Industrial Revolution.

This seems very plausible to me as the reason for the change in direction in Jane’s content and setting choice, as we know that Austen prided herself on writing commentaries that rang true on the society and times she lived in. However I think the slight change in writing style could probably be simply explained by the fact that this is just part of a first draft, and after reading Lucy Worsley’ brilliant Jane Austen at Home, I know that Austen was meticulous in her drafting, re-drafting and revising of her work: making sure to get the details and exact wording just right.

And that is all I can say really. Inconclusion, I thought Sanditon was a good, if teasingly cut-short read, which had the potential for more of Austen’s trademark wit and romance, but also perhaps a glimpse into the more decadent and potentially seedier side to Georgian England’s pleasure towns. Good read.

For those interested in the TV adaptation, it was lovely to have Charlotte’s trip fleshed out further. And even with the couple of sex scenes, that I don’t think Austen would have approved of, I was really enjoying myself until the end… What was with that end?! It better mean there is another series to come. If not, I am going to have to belatedly throw my TV out the window!

I’d love to hear your thoughts: Have you read Sanditon? Or any of Austen’s other short/unfinished works?

 

This is book #13 for my Classics Club II.

15 thoughts on “Sanditon by Jane Austen

  1. I’ve read all of her unfinished work and found them intriguing. I was particularly interested in Miss Lambe from this one, I hope Austen was going to really push the bounds and turn her into a primary character/heroine and not an evil competitor trope, but we’ll never know.

  2. It’s a pity she never got to finish it. I felt it read like a first draft too, almost as if she was putting the plot down first and would then go back and put in more of her usual wit and commentary. I decided against the adaptation – sex scenes in Austen? Ugh!

    1. FF, it is a real shame she didn’t get to finish it… because let’s face it there could never be too much Austen in the world! I think it is for the best you decided against the adaptation. 😉

  3. I read this years ago and remember being disappointed that it ended so abruptly. I’m watching the new series now on PBS and realize huge liberties have been taken, but can’t remember exactly where Jane left off. Guess it’s time for a reread!

    1. JoAnn, I think they used up all of what there is of Austen’s manuscript in the very first episode! Even though they’ve taken some large liberties, I hope you’re still enjoying it, but I warn you… that ending! 😱

  4. I felt the same as you when I read this several years ago. And I’m so irritated when they add things that are incongruent to the times or spirit of the author to films. Arg. 😉

  5. I’ve not read any Jane Austen at all and that statement normally makes people gasp in horror. My daughter recommends I begin with Persuasion.

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