Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

Sanditon

on 9 March 2010

This year I received an advance copy of Hesperus’ printing of Jane Austen’s last novel, Sanditon. The agreement is that I write a review in return for the book, so I thought that I’d also post my review on here. I really did enjoy the story- you all should read it if you have a chance!

Sanditon is the last of Jane Austen novels, written right at the end of her life. As such, it is incomplete and unfinished. This is the reason that I had never read Sanditon before now- this is the end of Austen’s writings. This just brings home the fact that she will not be writing anything new for me to read.

The novel shows amazing promise, and cannot help but leave the reader regretting that the story was never finished. The tone of the novel reads as a conglomeration of her previous novels. The hypochondriacal storyline hints at Persuasion, the varied house party brings Mansfield Park to mind, the quirky characters are similar to Emma, the cutting social critique is similar to Northanger Abbey’s, and so the novel reads. Though some of the material feels recycled from her other writings, Austen still manages to bring her fresh, breezy style of writing to the storyline.

Some of the elements are new to an Austen novel. The story delves into the male psyche more than any other book of hers. Too, Austen’s approach to “health cures” usually restricts itself to commentary on Bath, so the exploration of Bath-wannabes of the time is interesting to see. Lastly, it is one thing to stand back in the 21st century and critique women for letting their overactive imaginations lead them to imagine illness. It adds another dimension to read a woman of the time critique her own gender, especially since Austen was genuinely ill herself at the time.

The reader will be in no doubt that the story was intended to end happily as all Austen’s novels do- the secret lovers find happiness, inheritances help out those who need money, Sanditon will succeed as a health resort, and the heroine finds someone to give her the perfect life. The good will end well, and the bad will end in disgrace. However, the reader cannot help but regret the loss of those little plot twists and charming character development that only Austen can create on her way to happily ever after.

As to this particular printing, Hesperus printed the edition very nicely. Though it is a paperback, the cover has deep flaps that serve as the perfect bookmarks, and the typeface is the perfect blend between readability and old-fashioned style. Overall, this edition is a nice tribute to the final product of Austen’s unique imagination.

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