Sanditon: Completed by Another Lady

Sanditon: Jane Austen's Last Novel Completed - Marie Dobbs, Anne Telscombe, Jane Austen Considering who wrote this story, this review might ramble. This story is about Charlotte Heywood, though you wouldn’t be able to tell that right away by reading it. Austen spends the first five chapters dwelling on the Parkers and their obsession with the beach town Sanditon. Additionally, Charlotte’s introduction into the story was very subtle and, strangely, there is never a detailed depiction of Charlotte’s character. All of her qualities are expressed through the dialogue of other characters, who repeatedly cite her good sense and lack of ethereal beauty. All of the interactions between Charlotte and her paramour are expressed through dialogue, and they lack the slow-building tension that is featured in all of the other Austen novels. In the school of “show, don’t tell,” this is a forceful way to showcase character development, and I’m not sure it’s effective. Also, unlike in the other stories, this story occasionally branches out into the perspectives of other characters. “And despite all protests, he firmly directed the party across the bridge, leaving a disconsolate Sir Edward standing by the toll-gate, vaguely aware that he had just encountered someone a great deal more expert in getting his own way than he was himself” (123). Since Sir Edward doesn’t become a central character, this was also a little confusing. I was really excited to get read a Jane Austen novel for the first time again. I was, however, also skeptical. I always figured that authors, no matter how well-researched, can never successfully imitate another author. Unfortunately, I found that to be true here. Jane Austen only got eleven chapters in—and they were exposition chapters—before the secondary author took over. To be fair, the secondary author made a fairly seamless transition into the piece: the language remains eloquent and witty, and the surprises in characters reflect the surprises in plot. It reads very much like Jane Austen—that is, until the final fourth of the book. For whatever reason, around chapter twenty-four, the language slackens and the plot becomes increasingly romanticized. The final few plot twists were a little ridiculous, too: Charlotte assists in an elopement, something that makes little to no sense for the time period it was written in. Also, she is kidnapped—in a very satirical passage in which the damsel simply gets out and walks away rather than fall into hysterics. The kidnapping, while funny and in Austen’s style of anticlimactic gothic themes, felt a little too absurd for the story. This isn’t a rant. Expecting someone to finish an Austen novel, complete with Jane Austen’s voice and character development, is unfair. In fact, anyone who manages to give readers another book by Austen deserves acclaim. I just think that while likeable at parts, the final fourth part of the story got a little too sentimental and sounded a little too modern.