Sunday, March 21, 2010

Review: Sanditon by Jane Austen

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 that he was formed to be a dangerous man -- quite in the line of the Lovelaces. -- The very name of Sir Edward he thought, carried some degree of fascination with it. -- To be generally gallant and assiduous about the fair, to make fine speeches to every pretty girl, was but the inferior part of the character he had to play.  (from Sanditon in Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon, page 191)

Jane Austen was writing Sanditon when she fell ill, beginning the manuscript on January 17, 1817, ending chapter 12 on March 18, 1817, and dying on July 18, 1817, at the age of 41 without having finished it.  It's sad that we'll never know Austen's plans for her characters, an eccentric bunch that I found very amusing.

Sanditon opens with a carriage accident.  Mr. Thomas Parker, intent on finding a doctor for Sanditon -- the fishing village he hopes to turn into a bustling seaside resort -- has driven the carriage on an impassible road.  And come to find out, he and his wife are in the wrong Willingden -- the Willingden without a doctor.  The Parkers are taken in by the Heywoods so Mr. Parker can recover from a twisted ankle, and the new friendship prompts the Parkers to take the young Charlotte Heywood -- the likely heroine of the novel -- to see the progress being made in Sanditon.

In Sanditon, Charlotte meets a host of entertaining people, including Lady Denham, a twice married woman (the first time for money, the second time for a title) reminiscent of Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice and Thomas Parker's partner in developing Sanditon; Sir Edward Denham, who rambles on about poetry and novels and views himself as a seducer of women; Diana, Susan, and Arthur Parker, Thomas' hypochondriac siblings; and Sydney Parker, Thomas' fashionable younger brother who probably would have emerged as the hero.  Austen was brilliant when it came to providing humorous social commentary.  In this novel, she juxtaposes characters who favor the old way with characters who favor development and showcases hypochondriacs alongside those whose health actually is poor enough to benefit from the seaside air.

Sanditon had the potential to be a great novel.  Charlotte could have been as wise and strong a heroine as Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice.  Sydney Parker hardly makes an appearance, so who knows whether he would have given Mr. Darcy a run for his money.  Some of the characters were so exaggerated and ridiculous (Sir Edward and Diana, in particular) that I nearly laughed out loud, and to be honest, when I got to the end of chapter 12 and the book ended abruptly, I was sad.  I'd grown attached to these characters in just a handful of pages, and the story hadn't been developed enough for me to guess how things might have played out.  I'm glad I knew in advance that the novel was unfinished, and I'm not sorry I read it.  In fact, I think it is a worthwhile read for any Austen fan.

I read Sanditon as part of the week-long event "By the seaside with Sanditon" hosted by Austenprose.  Click here to check out the various discussions.

Sanditon is the 6th book I've read for the Jane Austen Challenge.

Disclosure: I purchased my copy of Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.

© 2010, Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or reproduce content without permission.


bermudaonion said...

I don't think I could go into this one knowing it would just stop like that. Kudos to you for giving it a go.

Ti said...

I don't think I can pick this one up knowing it wasn't finished.

Laurel Ann (Austenprose) said...

Thanks for the shoutout to my event By the Seaside with Sanditon Anna - your participation and all your great comments!

After having read Sanditon and felt the pang of regret that the novel did not finish - I am reading the coninuation by Another Lady. It was written in 1975 and has received the post praise.

Thanks again, LA

Veens said...

I wonder why no one thought of finishing it.

But I am in awe that u actually read this book which has an abrupt ending :)

Serena said...

so you have no theories about the ending??

Aarti said...

I read the version of this book that was finished by "another lady" and really enjoyed it! I was surprised to like it as much as I did. I read it years ago, but if you liked this start to the story, you might like that ending to the book, too.

Blodeuedd said...

I read that finished version and that didn't have the feel of real Austen to me, that is some of the choices they made

Andi said...

Very interesting! Consider my curiosity piqued!

Dana said...

I can't believe I call myself an Austen fan and had no idea that this one even existed! I'm debating whether or not I want to pick it up though, since I won't be able to see how everything turns out.

Anna said...

Thanks to all of you who stopped by and left a comment!

bermudaonion & Ti: think I really want to say at some point that I've read all of Jane Austen's work. LOL It didn't make it less depressing knowing beforehand that it would end abruptly, but I'm still glad I read it.

Laurel Ann: I'll have to get the continuation. I want some sort of ending, whether from Jane Austen or "Another Lady."

Veens: As Laurel Ann mentions there is a continuation by "Another Lady." I hope to get my hands on a copy at some point.

Serena: It really ends too soon to have any kind of theories. I think I can guess that Charlotte probably would have ended up with Sydney, but that's about it.

Aarti: Glad to hear you enjoyed it. I hope to read it myself at some point.

Blodeuedd: Hmm... Well, nobody can be as great as Austen LOL.

Andi: Maybe you should give it a try...

Dana: Don't feel bad! I only learned of her minor works when I was at the book store looking to buy the rest of the Austen books I don't own!