For my birthday, I received the new and updated version of Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope.
The re-imagined novel is part of The Austen Project, a new series of books written by today’s leading authors transposing Jane Austen’s stories to modern-day England.
Just a refresher for everyone: The Dashwood girls have just lost their father, and because of a stupid will, their house goes to his first son. Forced by his horrible wife Fanny to move out, they find refuge in a cottage in Devon, part of a relative’s estate. Poor, their only hope is to marry well, but while Elinor falls for a man she can’t have, Marianne dives heart and soul into a destructive relationship with the enigmatic Willoughby.
Joanna Trollope’s story, while set in today’s world, stayed too close to the original to be believable. How could an able-bodied woman in her late forties/early fifties not go straight back to work? Or get benefits? Why does it take the entire book for Marianne to realise she can get a scholarship or loan to get to university if their income is too small? How come Elinor is the only one who actively seeks work and pays the bills? Should we really believe that Edward and Elinor want to marry straight away even though they haven’t actually dated? Would Marianne really fall for Brandon even though she’s likely to meet men her age at university?
Yes there’s Facebook and Twitter and emails and phones and iPods and cars, the ideas are still stuck back in the 1800s and it’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow.
Because the story barely changed, I couldn’t help but visualise the characters based on the 1995 movie with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. Brandon can not be another but Alan Rickman, and Edward will forever remain Hugh Grant.
While I’m all for a modernisation (it does make some things easier to understand at times), I prefer a more radical approach, like author Juliet Archer who has so far rewritten Emma and Persuasion. I loved both books and can’t wait for the next instalment.
Pictures from: mountholyokenews.com, julietarcher.com, wordpress.com