Sense and Sensibility Book Review | Plugged InThis opening shot in a set of updates hits its target — but is the Austen Project really necessary? The Austen Project has commissioned six bestselling authors to update Jane Austen's six completed works. It's a project which elicits disquiet even though no other novelist has been pursued by as many fan-fiction riffs as Our Jane. Irritation aside, Joanna Trollope is a good choice. A skilled, intelligent and witty novelist whose work is persistently marred by dreadful dust-jackets and sneers about "Aga sagas", she comes from the same kind of upper middle-class world as Austen.
REVIEWING JANE AUSTEN NOVELS - Discussion
Sense and Sensibility
T his is the much-anticipated first instalment of the Austen Project , a series that rewrites her six novels for the modern age. Sequels, prequels and updating of Austen rarely work, with the exception of the brilliant film adaptation, Clueless , which reworks Emma by modernising the characters, settings and social mores but sticking tightly to the plot. It's an extremely difficult feat to pull off, and Trollope is to be praised for her courageous refashioning of Austen's complex and uneasy first published novel. Trollope knows Sense and Sensibility inside out, faithfully follows the plot and retains all the most important scenes, which are ingeniously reworked. Her contemporary parallels are fresh and funny. The Dashwood women are expelled from their family home, not because of entailed property devolving to the male heir but because the second Mrs Dashwood and her husband never got around to getting married, and so their three daughters Ellie, M and Mags have no legal rights. Rather than arch-villain or "shag-bandit" Willoughby Wills impregnating then abandoning a teenager, as in the original, he introduces "Little Eliza" to drugs, and she languishes in a crack den.
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Men and women of contrasting and complimenting character are thrown together, but, the chances of love are thwarted by the social conventions of the period that prevent honesty and openness and instead breed duplicity and secrecy. But, on reflection, Sense and Sensibility is also a carefully crafted critique of social ethics and leaves the reader with much to think over. Sense and Sensibility is largely a story of two contrasting sisters; Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. The novel begins with the death of their father, Henry Dashwood. On his deathbed, Henry presses John to take care of his second family which John assures his father he will. Faced with having to leave their home, the Dashwood women struggle to find a suitable new home within the means of their limited income. Sensing the growing affection between Elinor and Edward, Fanny intervenes to try and spoil any possible connection and to motivate the relocation of the Dashwood women.