Monday, January 26, 2009

My Weekend with Jane Austen

As I have been getting progressively busier at work and the weather was bad this weekend, I decided to indulge in a little Victorian getaway to JaneAustenLand. (Those of you who do not understand this reference should watch Red Dwarf more. It would do you good.) Basically, I stayed home and watched every Jane Austen film adaptation in my collection and read my favorite excerpts from all of her books while soaking in a bath. It was delightful.

While on my staycation, I re-discovered a book I picked up several years ago entitled Sanditon, an unfinished novel that was completed by "Another Lady" who chose to remain nameless so she could ride Jane Austen's petticoats to success. The writing style is fairly close to the original Austenian voice, and the setting is in a would-be sea-side resort, an admittedly welcome change from the drawing rooms of the country on which a less ambitious writer might have settled. "Another Lady" had certainly done her research and the novel did not feel forced as one might have expected.

On the other hand, it is chock-full of dialogue. While I enjoy reading dialogue in an internal British accent, I cannot say that the original six Austen novels have anywhere near as much dialogue as this book. In addition, there is a fair amount of action in the climax of the novel and, as anyone who has ever read an Austen novel can tell you, there is never any action on stage in JaneAustenLand. While very exciting things may happen (the Napoleonic war, various elopements, death), they are only mentioned in a sideline inasmuch as they affect the main characters.

I cannot claim to have enjoyed the novel the first time I read it--I was distracted by the many ways in which the book differed from how it would have been had Austen finished it herself. There is no lesson learned by the main female character as there was in Austen's other bestsellers (Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility, to be precise). In fact, if anything, the main character takes on what Victorians probably would have classified as undesirable character traits by the end of the novel, abandoning her common sense in a way that would have made Elinor Dashwood blanch.

On the other hand, the novel was written in a contemporary world by a contemporary writer for contemporary readers. "Another Lady" admits that she did not write the book for critics, but for Austen fans. While the main love interest would probably not have appealed to a true Victorian lady and the action scenes toward the end would have made her swoon if her corset was too tight, it is very much along the lines of what modern readers enjoy--dialogue and all. In addition, "Another Lady" did not cross any lines of appropriate behavior on the part of her heroine--there are no steamy sex scenes and no inappropriate language, which I feel would have ruined the book entirely for me as it has Jane Austen's name emblazoned across the front cover. I would recommend this book as an excellent addition to anyone's Jane Austen staycation as long as she approaches it as a reader and a fan--and not as a critic.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, can't imagine it without a tank.

Lindsay-with-an-A said...

"Ketchup on lobster?" [Explode]

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