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First impressions of this book were amazing. It is aesthetically pleasing, I’m a huge fan of ‘pretty books’ on my bookshelf, with the cover featuring art taken from the library of Congress. It’s also a nice size so even though it is a hardback there is no wrist fatigue if you sit reading for extended periods.
The book opens with an introductory essay by Jane Austen historian Janet Todd. I will be upfront and say I chose not to read this until after I read Sanditon. Having never read it I wanted to appreciate it with my own thoughts for the first read through. The essay relates history of the period to Austens works and compares characters and themes from her published works to the unfinished Sanditon. She delves into the rise of ‘Health resorts’ at the time using historical knowledge of places such as Lyme, essays and articles from Jane’s contemporaries, and the letters of Jane herself. It is a very interesting read.
On to the fragment, as Todd calls it, of Sanditon. The book opens with Gentleman entrepreneur Mr Parker and his wife seeking a Dr for his Health Resort Village. Following an accident the parkers make the acquaintance of the Heywood family and following a brief stay they remove to Sanditon with the Heywoods daughter Charlotte.
On arrival in Sanditon Charlotte forms relationships with many of the local inhabitants; Lady Denham, her impoverished niece Clara and other family members, and of course the Parker siblings.
The Parkers are all self diagnosed as invalids which is what prompted the eldest to invest in a health retreat and a doctor. However it appears that they are slightly more energetic than their words allow.
The entire story that Jane left behind is the establishment of a community at Sanditon, and introduces us to the variety of characters, including an heiress from the West indies, and brings a potential love interest in Sidney Parker.
The story is both exciting and sad. Exciting as this is a new plot line for Jane, even though a lot of her characters took to Bath and Lyme for portions of her novels, it looked like Sanditon was going to be completely set in a holiday/seaside resort. And also sad because there was so much potential there left unfinished with Jane’s death.
The book closes with a selection of continuations for those of us left feeling unsatisfied with the 12 chapters left to us. These range from one by Anna Lefroy, Jane’s niece, in 1845 all the way to Carrie Bebris Mystery series in 2015.
This book is the ideal book to read before seeing the upcoming television adaptation to get a well rounded feel for society at the time and the original work itself. For that reason I highly recommend this version of the book.
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About the reviewer:
Susannah is a 40 year old stay at home mum to four children aged 20, 8, 6, and 1, and a manic Labrador Boxer Cross dog.
Apart from an obsession with Austen (including sequels and variations and film adaptations) she loves to read books in the fantasy genre. Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and Robert Asprins Myth Inc series are some of her favourites.