on 27 September 2014
I'm generally not a fan of modern day attempts to 'update' classical novels or write sequels, and having read this my stance hasn't changed. I would advise anyone who is a huge Austen fan who loves this particular novel to steer clear. I'm more of a Bronte fan myself and I know how I would feel about reading a modern day version of 'Jane Eyre' or 'Wuthering Heights' (hopefully something no-one will attempt).
There are some quite interesting moments, but overall it just doesn't work for me. As others have mentioned Jane Austen's work is firmly rooted in the society she lived in, where women's roles were heavily restricted by traditional expectations and much of this just doesn't translate to modern times, despite the references to iphones/facebook etc. Some aspects such as the Dashwood's dependence on the patronage of rich relatives and Edward's engagement to Lucy just don't make any sense in a modern context. I would also suggest that Trollope is pretty out of touch with the lives of the average 21st century Briton if she thinks that £1500 a month is less than the minimum wage or that 200K is an insignificant inheritance (personally I would consider it life changing).
Some interesting moments but if this kind of project must be undertaken it needs to be done with some boldness - this just feels like a mostly unsuccessful attempt to update a well loved classic, by adding some contemporary references. Rather like a identical remake of a classic film where you just think - why did they bother?
Well it passed the time but just left me feeling that I'd rather re-read the original or a decent new novel by Trollope. I can't help feeling she's running out of ideas ...
on 15 March 2014
Joanna Trollope can usually be relied on for a light, easy read novel, a bit of fun and nothing too hard to digest. However, this is dumming down to the extreme. Dreadful, really disappointing and very lazy writing. I cringed at the attempts at "modern" teenage language (amazeballs, totes hilare etc etc). Please do not waste time money and energy on this book.
The Austen Project is a project whereby all of Jane Austen's novels are being re-worked by contemporary authors. This is the first of such reworkings. I feel that Joanna Trollope, a highly acclaimed author, has been very brave in taking this task on. She has taken the story in Austen's novel and all of her characters, and placed them in a contemporary setting. The problem is that while the characters and storyline may well have been quite believable in the early 19th century when Austen wrote her novel, they are far less believable in 2013. All of the characters, without exception, are either totally obnoxious or completely pathetic. The central character is the saintly Elinor who is such a martyr, and so humourless, that you wish you could kick her up the backside. Her two sisters, especially Marianne, are so selfish, rude and ungrateful, that you actively dislike them. Elinor's romantic interest is Edward who is so wet you could wring him out! The sisters' mother is Belle who is utterly pathetic. She is a mother of three grown up daughters who is completely incapable of looking after herself, far less her daughters. Elinor, like any good martyr, takes full responsibility for her mother and sisters and never utters a word of complaint. What you want her to do, is to stand up for herself and to tell the others what she really thinks. Unfortunately she never does.
The background in which the story takes place is one of the very rich upper classes - a place of country estates and baronets, a place where people routinely own large houses in London and large houses in the country. It is a place where young women (all spoiled and silly) are expected to marry for money. It is a world in which no-one seems to have a job (apart, of course, from the saintly Elinor) and feminism has never been heard of. I found myself thinking of Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie and their uppercrust friends when reading this. However, this is a world to which 99.9% of the British population cannot relate and they will be completely unable to empathise with the lives of the characters portrayed. This is a major failing. It is vital that the reader should sympathise with, and like the major characters in a novel, and I found it impossible to do so with these characters.
I still think Joanna Trollope is an excellent writer, but I do think that she should stick to writing her own novels. I think she made a mistake in getting involved with this. I think that she has been constrained by the story and characters provided by Austen and even she, an accomplished writer, could not overcome these constraints. In her novel, Jane Austen cleverly turned a satirical eye on the society of her time. Unfortunately Joanna Trollope has not succeeded in doing the same, simply because the society and the characters which she portrays are not recognisable to today's readers. A disappointment.
on 11 November 2013
In order to appreciate the nuances of Austen's writing and her witty social commentary, it is necessary to have an understanding of social mores, customs and manners during the time in which she was writing. It is all about context! Therefore, it is very difficult to convey Austen's plots and characters to the modern-day era because so much has changed in the past two hundred years. I am deeply sceptical about the seemingly endless amount of Austen spin-offs and sequels which have been published over the past decade or so. 'Austen mania' is an excellent cash cow for publishers and authors but that cow is being milked to extinction.
I attempted to keep an open mind while I read this updated version of Sense and Sensibility but the same question kept popping into my head: why is it necessary to modernize Jane Austen? Aren't her novels already good enough? Perhaps Trollope wrote this as a tribute to Austen but I think there are far better ways of paying homage to one of the greatest female authors of the nineteenth century.
Parts of this book are mildly entertaining but overall the characters are tedious and faded representations of the originals. Marianne is a complete and utter airhead. I'm not saying she wasn't foolish in the original S&S; she is an infatuated teenage girl for much of the novel. But at least there was context for it. Women had to marry. It was in their best interests because as Austen herself wrote, "Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor". But this novel is set very much in the twenty-first century and the constant yipping about boyfriends and inconsequential fluff made me tune out. After a while, a very short while, you simply want Elinor, Marianne and Mrs Dashwood to stand on their own two feet. To quote an angry Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice, "I take no leave of you, [Ms Trollope], I send no compliments to your parents, You deserve no such attention. I am seriously displeased."
[N.B. The views herein represent those of an Austen purist. Any attempt to criticize Austen or reproduce her writing will be countered with pithy Austen quotes and Regency singing. Thank you for reading.]
on 20 January 2014
This review is written on behalf of MAM
This is an unsuccessful attempt to update a well-loved classic.The difficulty in trying to match early 19th century life-style and social manners to 21st attitudes made for awkward and unconvincing reading. What is missing is Jane Austen's wonderful irony. Her understanding of peoples' motives and behaviour is conveyed with cool detachment altogether absent from the modern version
Jane Austen will still be read a hundred years from now, while I doubt if Joanna Trollope's work will be remembered. One wonders why she bothered with such a pointless project,which only demonstrates the superiorty of the original.
This was chosen by my book club. I'll admit I wasn't overly keen on the concept in the first place but the reality was far worse than anything I had envisaged. If I hadn't been reading for book club I would have given up after a couple of chapters. Like some other reviewers I am surprised, to say the least, that Joanna Trollope got involved in this sorry exercise, and mystified as to why she thought it had been successful (there is a Q&A session with her at the end of the Kindle edition).
Trollope says that "I could see that her (i.e. Jane Austen's) characters and narrative would translate seamlessly to 2013 which indeed they do". I find this to be nonsensical. The themes that Jane Austen was exploring in her original novel just do not translate to the current day. The idea that a widow would have to throw herself on the mercies of her male relatives to provide for her future is beyond a joke. Equally, the idea that young middle class women today spend their time fretting over making a good marriage is just too funny: unless my family & acquaintances are very unusual the pre-occupation of young women of the age of the Dashwood girls is to get good A-levels to progress to a good university with the intention of pursuing a career in which they will earn their own money to pay for their own mortgage, buy designer label clothes and a nice car. Yet the "girls" Trollope presents, even sensible Elinor, are vapid in the extreme, and completely unbelievable. I am baffled, too, by the idea that Trollope thinks she has made Marianne likeable - it is hard for me to imagine a more pointless, self-indulgent dolt in this telling of the story.
Nothing about the story rings true, the whole thing is laughable in the extreme, the characters are shallow and few if any could be considered likeable. Am I really expected to believe that Elinor must give up university because they have no money and she is moving to Devon - I thought there were student loans and that the majority of university students still lived away from home? None of the family appear to have much idea about the world of work, the need to insure cars, etc.. Marianne is supposedly an asthmatic yet when she has a major attack, her sister, who was fully aware of this, has to go to Bill Brandon for help - the idea that she might dial for an ambulance herself, that it would have been quicker and therefore safer to do so, seems to have escaped her. Then, there is heroic Bill "forcing immediate attention in A and E": surely the arrival of an ambulance would have drawn attention by itself?
Immediately after reading this sorry publication I decided to re-read Jane Austen's original. What a relief to find well-drawn characters, a nuanced read with wit & lightness of touch. It is a shame that Joanna Trollope, who normally writes so well about contemporary family life, is shamed by this nonsense. What she has produced here is chic-lit of the worst type.
on 4 December 2013
Unlike some Jane Austen lovers, I have never minded re-tellings, imagined sequels, or even parodies of her masterpieces. I even managed to get through the one that had Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy battling zombies. My major criticism of that author's efforts had nothing to do with the presence of the walking dead, but rather his leaden and unimaginative characterizations. However, there was a strange affinity between Pride & Prejudice, one of Austen's most humerous works, and the irreverence of the modern brain-munching mash-up.
Austen's Sense & Sensibility is a darker book. Its themes of avarice, beautified villainy, and the very real dangers to women of the author's era left impoverished by birth or circumstance show us a world far more dangerous than Meryton, Highbury or even the two-faced playground of Bath. In some ways, this makes the book more amenable to meaningful modernization. Anyone who has lived through even a portion of the 20th and 21st centuries understands how deeply a society can fail its people.
Instead of interpreting the original against the mixed-bag of opportunity and inequity that is contemporary England--or any modern country--Joanna Trollope skims off the very top layer and hands it an mp3-player and the keys to an SUV. While Elinor Dashwood, Edward Ferres and Bill Brandon retain some of the complexity that have made them so fascinating for two centuries, the other characters disappoint. Marianne, Margaret and Isabelle Dashwood, especially, are barely likable. They are petty and nasty and almost as unkind to the family offering them shelter (the Middletons, Mrs. Jennings) as the people who have supposedly treated them so poorly. Is an inheritance of 200,000 pounds sterling (over $300,000 US)to women who are literate and basically able-bodied really impoverishment? Does it truly rip them from their social moorings the way it did to Austen's originals? These Dashwoods are eccentrics to begin with, bohemians who luck into life in a stately home. Austen's originals were fairly conventional--their class WAS the world as they knew it and lived in it.
Other issues for me: Trollope making Marianne's asthma such an extreme case, which relieves both author and character of the responsibility of demonstrating genuine growth. John Willoughby is in and out of the picture so fast and so dramatically, that the reader can't even pretend along with Marianne that the relationship was based on anything more than her own fantasies. When Willoughby's biggest sin is revealed, it is so over-the-top, it cannot be reconciled with the wispy outline of the man we've been given. Here, at least, Trollope would have been better off sticking close to her model, an underage girl seduced, a baby abandoned, as big a tragedy now as in Jane Austen's time.
I will say the second half of the book is much richer than the first half, but that's Elinor truly shining, along with Marianne finally demonstrating some humanity, and the gruesome Steele sisters creating havoc. All good stuff that gave me lots of satisfaction as a reader. On the technical side, the second half didn't escape Trollope's tendency to separate speaker from dialogue. Considering how heavily her plot relies on conversation, this leads to confusion. Many times I had to re-read passages to figure out who said what.
Trollope's Sense & Sensibility isn't a bad book. It does misunderstand and misrepresent the original.
on 12 January 2014
This is hugely disappointing, and almost an insult to Austen. Trollope appears to have taken the basic plot of Auten's novel, thrown in some reference to social media, reality TV, and drug misuse, and considered that that to be her work done on "modernising" of Austen. Anything of the wit or commentary on society and social mores that make Jane Austen's novel a classic is completely missing. Trollope's characters are universally shallow and unlikeable, in particular Marianne. Don't bother with this chick-lit version - read Austen's.
on 10 November 2013
I have read most or Joanna Trollope's novels, and enjoyed them but Sense and Sensibility is badly constructed, is hard to read and I didn't bother to read more than 25 per cent.
I am surprised Joanna Trollope let herself be talked in to re-writing such an important literary work and then thought she had done a good job of it.
I will think twice about buying any of her novels in future
on 18 November 2013
I have been a fan of Joanna Trollope for many years and have really enjoyed her books. What on earth was this? To me this is lazy. Did she run out of ideas? It was not even well written. Very poor and very disappointing.