So everyone knows I’m one of Jane Austen’s biggest fans. And almost everyone knows I tend to be critical of her imitators; some fan fiction is better never written. So why do I insist on reading books that annoy me?
I think I read Austen fan fiction because it fascinated me. I wonder if the author’s perceptions of the characters are the same as mine. Sometimes it almost like an alternate reality. In fact it is almost like a lottery. Will the story be a winner, or will it be a big disappointment? I’m not an actually purchaser of lottery tickets since that seems like an expensive way to be repeatedly disappointed. I’ll stick to books, thank you very much.
But I digress from the topic at hand.
For the past several weeks I have eyed a book at the library with this intriguing image on the front, coupled with the title Sense and Sensibility. BUT the author isn’t Jane Austen! What? Someone dared to rewrite my second favorite Jane Austen story? In the image two girlish silhouettes are sharing ear buds so it must be of recent vintage. It is. Joanna Trollope published her version of Sense and Sensibility in 2013. Here’s the cover:
I have to say that Joanna Trollope did a pretty good job following the basic plot. Since her version is set in the present I kind of wondered how she’d get Elinor and Marianne in London for weeks at a time when they go to visit. House guests just don’t stay as long as they used to these days. Obviously she had to make some concessions to the differences in modern culture, but she still more or less managed to keep to the plot line.
When it came to the characters I felt like most of them were caricatures of Jane Austen’s original characters. Fanny and John Dashwood are pretty much spot on in their inability to be kindly disposed toward their step family. Sir John Middleton and Mrs Jennings, however, have been slightly exaggerated into an almost gruesomely boring version of themselves that only care for fun and gossip. Their innate kindness in the original is almost masked by Trollope’s handling.
Even Elinor and Marianne are slightly caricatured. In Austen’s version Elinor is reserved in nature, but very capable of strong feelings. She is more practical with a great sense of self-control. Trollope has her so reserved and controlled that she even wonders if she is capable of strong feelings. Even so, I still like Elinor more than Marianne.
Austen’s Marianne is a creature of romance and sensation. Head strong and relatively unconcerned with how people judge her behavior, she approaches life with zest and a bit of drama. She’s worse under Trollope’s tutelage. She is still impulsive, but incredibly naive. Wills (or Willoughby) treats her so abominably and she accepts his reasons. Even after being caught having sex with him (NOT following the Austen script here, but maybe checking out your future house isn’t scandalous enough!), she isn’t suspicious when he immediately leaves and refuses contact with her. I’ve always been a bit impatient with Marianne, but this spoiled brat version of her put my teeth on edge.
The book was okay, but I don’t think I will ever have the urge to read it again. It has problems with foul language. Thankfully Marianne and Wills get busy off the page, so to speak, so there isn’t any explicit scenes. As far as Austen fan fiction goes, it left me a little cold.