Monday, August 5, 2013

Thoughts on Sanditon #AusteninAugustrbr

This month I'm joining in (with much glee and joyousness) with Austen in August over at Roof Beam Reader. I discovered Austen via Pride and Prejudice when I was 13. By the time I finished school at 17 I'd read all of her major works multiple times. I have several adaptations on DVD (and several more on my wishlist). And occasionally I find myself dipping into works about her, continuations and re-imaginings. This August though, I've decided to take the plunge and finish up the Austen canon with her minor works. I've read Lady Susan in the past, but not Sanditon, The Watsons and the letters/juvenilia. Today I plunged in with Sanditon  . . .


Sanditon


Austen, Jane. (1817).


Sanditon is the beginning of a work Austen abandoned shortly before her death and published posthumously. It introduces us to the seaside town of Sanditon, which Mr Park is attempting to turn into the next big thing, in conjunction with the wealthy Lady Denham. In eleven chapters we meet not only them, but Charlotte Parker, the astute young woman who appears to be our heroine, as well as various other members of the circle. The tale finishes abruptly, almost as soon as what we must assume are the major players have all been introduced. Charlotte visits Lady Denham at Sanditon House for the first time, having previously always met in the township. . . and that's that.

Sanditon is raw in comparison to Austen's other work. It's tone is hurried, with little polish - full of abbreviations and ampersands, characters listed rather than introduced. It's a first draft and obviously so in comparison to the flow of her major works. But at the same time, the wit and astute insight we see of all in Austen is still blindingly visible. Austen's introduction of the 'town' of Sanditon is quite gorgeous - it is a town that exists more so in the mind's of its believers than in reality, a concept Austen shows, rather than tells the reader. Mr Parker is desperately trying to attract a certain class of people (as is Lady Denham, for her own reasons) and the 'town' is created more through the picture of it that he and his acquaintances build up to others than through description of the physical place. The final chapters contain quite a biting portrayal of hypochondria (in Mr Parker's three siblings). Austen's intelligence shines as she makes her feelings known through that of Charlotte, who immediately sees the three invalids as what they are, people who have not enough to do. Again, it's more raw than her finished works, more cutting. It would be interesting to know if the strength of feeling would have been cut back on in the final draft.

On the whole, Sanditon is very much a diamond in the rough. It is truly Austen, but Austen as her private self. Although I haven't yet read her letters, I feel I am likely to find Sanditon more akin to those than her other works. I certainly wouldn't pick up Sanditon if I was new to Austen, but if you're familiar with her other work than it is definitely worth the comparison.

Also, I now feel like I can go and watch Welcome to Sanditon, the spin-off from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,  guilt free. I've been putting it off until I read the real thing

Sanditon also fulfills a book for my Classics Club list.

6 comments:

  1. I haven't yet read this one of Austen's, but I'll put it firmly at the top of my list! It sounds fascinating. Thanks for sharing :)

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  2. I really enjoyed this one (as well as Lady Susan and The Watsons). It makes my heart ache that the two novels were never finished, as I believe they had so much potential. Sanditon does and would have shown us much more about Jane Austen, the person - I agree with you there!

    And "woo hoo" for being able to knock off two challenges at once. I try to do that as much as possible. ;)

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  3. I've forgotten so much about this book I definitely need to read it again. It's one that I wish Austen had been able to finish.

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  4. They certainly do!! (have so much potential). If only we could compare this version to the finished product.

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  5. I think we all wish that! It's a quick read at least, it only took me about an hour and a half of reading time.

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  6. Austen is definitely definitely truly worth reading. She deserves to be at the top of everyones list!

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