Thursday, 12 June 2014

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

Jane Austen completed only six novels but these have garnered a huge following over the centuries, with multiple TV and movie spin-offs. The latest addition to all this is The Austen Project, where six well-known novelists each rewrite one Austen novel in a modern setting. Recently, Val McDermid’s version of Northanger Abbey was released, but the series kicked off with Joanna Trollope’s Sense and Sensibility.

If you recall, this novel features the Dashwood family of three attractive sisters and their mother, who lose their family home of Norland, when the father of the family dies, and primogeniture hands over his title to the girls’ half-brother. In Trollope’s update, the girls’ mother was Mr Dashwood’s mistress – he’d run out on his wife and son long ago, and on his deathbed begs young John Dashwood to look after the girls and their mother. His wife Nancy, however, has other ideas.

Elinor Dashwood is the sensible daughter, taking on the burden of responsibility when they move to a new town and a smaller, ordinary house. Younger sister, Marianne, is the passionate one, who falls for the handsome wastrel, Willoughby, their new neighbour. There’s a whole fleet of minor characters, all either eccentric or snobbish in one way or another while Elinor secretly pines for Edward, nasty Nancy’s brother.

Trollope provides plenty of lively dialogue and manages the cast of characters well, bringing in social media, text messaging and a modern London social scene. It well written and hangs together just fine, but I couldn’t get past the silliness of many of the characters and their over-the-top behaviour, while I miss Austen’s elegant prose. So just three stars from me for this one.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue Link: Sense and Sensibility

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