Rebecca's Reviews > Sanditon: Jane Austen's Last Novel Completed

Sanditon by Jane Austen
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's review
Jun 27, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: fiction, romance
Recommended for: Austen freaks and regency romance freaks (not necessarily the same people)
Read in June, 2008

This book was by Jane Austen and "Another Lady," mostly by the other lady. The first 11 chapters were by Austen, mostly, and it was obvious. By the end of the 11th chapter, though, there was no real indication of where the plot would go, except for using other Austen novels as a guide (seems reasonable), so most of the plot is by the other lady, as well. It is pretty much a published piece of fan fiction. Not bad fan fiction, but not great fan fiction, either, and not even close to the author it is meant to honor. That said, I enjoyed reading it, once I decided not to hold the bulk of the book up to Austen's level.

One thing the book did for me is to cast into fairly sharp relief those qualities of Jane Austen's novels that I like: the language, the social criticism and commentary, the character development, and the multi-dimensionality of the book's structure, among other features. This book had the language and the groundwork for the social commentary in the first eleven chapters, but those were short chapters and there was no room for character development or multiple dimensions. By the end of the 11th chapter, we knew very little about the apparent heroine, and the supposed hero had been mentioned once (and so maybe they were not the hero and heroine, after all!). The rest of the book is high on personal criticism, but is one-dimensional and is missing the social commentary, language, and character development. Another Lady tells us repeatedly about the selfishness of certain characters, practically rubs our faces with it, in a way that Jane Austen would never have done. Another Lady tried to capture Austen's language and the contemplative tone that most of her books have, but she didn't succeed. Still, it was fun and not actively painful. Plus, with two elopements on the same day, it's hard to complain.
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message 1: by Katie (new)

Katie "Not actively painful." I like that...

message 2: by Aura (new)

Aura 'Plus, with two elopements on the same day, it's hard to complain.' that was really funny!

message 3: by Devon (new)

Devon Hernandez Very astute review - I completely agree with you on everything identified as inherent traits of Jane Austen's writing.

Laura You didn't find Mister Collins to be absurdly self-interested and falsely confident like Sir Edward Denham? It felt like Austen rubbed this selfishness in our faces pretty incredibly: "Sir Edward's great object in life was to be seductive. With such personal advantages as he knew himself to possess and such talents as he did also give himself credit for, he regarded it as his duty. He felt he was formed to be a dangerous man... the very name of Sir Edward, he thought, carried some degree of fascination with it. To be generally gallant and assiduous//make fine speeches to every pretty girl was but the inferior part of the character he had to play. Miss Heywood or any other young woman with any pretensions to beauty he was entitled (according to his own views of society) to approach...&rhapsody on the slightest acquaintance... (Clara) was his rival in Lady Denham's favor; she was young, lovely, and dependent. He had very early seen the necessity of the case, and had now been long trying to...UNDERMINE HER PRINCIPLES."(Chapter 7) The only characters I found unbearably selfish in it were named Denham-and Austen's portion established them as starkly so... Same chapter and a few others Austen uses to describe Lady Denham: "talked and talked only of her own concerns... Taking hold of Charlotte's arm with the ease of one who felt that any notice from her was an honour, and communicative from the influence of the same conscious importance or a natural love of talking, she immediately paid in a tone of great satisfaction and with a look of arch sagacity, 'Miss Esther wants of to invite her and her brother... But I shan't. She has been trying to get round me every way... I am not very easily taken in... My young folks, as I call them sometimes, for I take them very much by the hand... I would not have you think that I only notice them for poor dear Harry's sake. No, no; they are very deserving or trust me, they would not be so much in MY company. I am not the woman to help anybody blindfold... When he died, I have Sir Edward his gold watch.' She paid this with a produce a great impression; and seeing no rapturous astonishment...added quickly, "He did not bequeath it to his nephew. It was no bequest. It was not in the will. He only told me, and THAT but once, that he should wish his nephew to have his watch; but it need not have been binding if I had not chose it... I have no fancy emp having my house as full as an hotel. I should not choose to have my two housemaids' time taken up all the morning in dusting out bedrooms. They have Miss Clara' well as my own every day. If they had hard places, they would want higher wages...the next time Miss Esther begins to talk about the dampness of Denham Park and the good bathing does her, I shall advise them to take one of these lodgings for a fortnight. Don't you think that will be fair? charity begins at home, you know.'"

One theme we went over in studying Austen many ages ago happened to be her showing nearly everyone as selfish(even when giving we're typically doing it for self-serving reasons like lifting our spirits when contemplating our puny value to the world)-which is true for all post-ag humanity, so called civilization ironically making uncivilized, entitled, selfish beasts of us. Austen made quite clear early on that Lady Denham is selfish, paranoid that people want her to not be selfish, and more selfish-keeping her consistently so seemed fitting as she was 70 or so&not willing to let her own family hang around but insistent upon and accustomed to hanging around and dirty someone else's dishes when unwelcome herself.

That said, Austen was pretty fond of including fluttery-nerved hypochondriacs, too(and given that people believe her own death was due to Addison's disease I can certainly see where her own health woes would make her FEEL like she was creating artificial ailments since it makes your heart rate fly, blood pressure bottom out, gives sharp pain especially around the hips&lower back-weak legs and lightheadedness a given from the blood pressure dropping, it makes many jittery when intaking caffeine, and crises--wherein people vomit&have diarrhea all at once&are quite faint from having zero defenses against common stressors,also having nothing to regulate body temperature/heart rate/blood pressure and subsequently neurological changes occur along with a dramatic increase in melanin making people look tan or otherwise discoloured--arise da da dum under stress-mostly physical exertion but to whine about walking and being too frail to travel would be REALLY familiar to her if indeed her collapse WAS due to this-it's nasty, quite lethal, and does get all manner of psychological claim by all manner of bad doctors which face it ALL doctors with the knowledge available in her day would qualify as today). I think many of her hypochondriac characters were self-reflective (she only wrote what she knew)... Her symptoms were vague and most doctors are STILL horrible at diagnosing it. Amazing a president had it though we'll never know whether his was mild or controlled enough to endure a full term. Just my thoughts after reading it. I don't think it's perfect by a stretch-I'm REALLY glad she didn't try to make the language excessively flowery as Austen's part wasn't-much of what we adore seems to be only done in revisions(makes sense-she had pretty awful spelling, grammar&often confused words in scribbling it out etc). This one was light happy fluff which is especially how Emma and Sense are for me. Not enough was given to go against the extremes established and there HAD to be a bad guy even though he was far more funny and she opted out of the severe offenses (as in Emma) instead of making a buffoon a deeply skilled criminal.

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