The first eleven chapters of Sanditon were written by Jane Austen between January 27 and March 18, 1817. While writing this she had less than six months to live, and it’s hard to believe she was still able to keep her characters so witty and engaging with death at her door.
“Another Lady” says her completion of the manuscript is not intended for literary critics but for Jane Austen fans. She takes over half-way through chapter eleven. Jane Austen’s last words being, “Poor Mr. Hollis! It was impossible not to feel him hardly used: to be obliged to stand back in his own house and see the best place by the fire constantly occupied by Sir Henry Denham.”
I imagine this was how Wheel of Time fans felt when Robert Jordan died before finishing his final novel in the series. Good thing he left extensive notes. Unfortunately Jane Austen didn’t, all “Another Lady” knew was that 1) in five of six novels, the heroine lives in a country village until a rich bachelor arrives 2) each heroine has a rival and 3) nobody dies on stage and you can expect a happy ending.
It all starts with a couple’s carriage being overturned near the heroine Charlotte’s home. Because her family helps them out and takes care of the gentleman’s ankle they take Charlotte back home with them to Sanditon, a seaside resort for a vacation. There Charlotte meets all sorts of dashing and extravagant people. Including Mr. Parker’s brother Sidney. One thing I really loved about Sidney Parker was he reminded me of Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey my favorite Austen novel. Sidney is charming and witty and teases Charlotte mercilessly. This is hilarious because her character is extremely practical and cautious and he disconcerts her to the point of bafflement.
Some purists claim the novel was better left unfinished, but I’m glad “Another Lady” did. I mean you have to give her credit for even attempting. She admits that Austen’s writing can’t be faithfully copied and for that she apologizes, and I don’t mind. To be honest I didn’t notice the switching of authors, it was that seamless to me. I’m not a scholar on the subject though so maybe to others it would be more evident. The ending was more like a Georgette Heyer ending in that it was a bit more fantastical, but that made it all the more enjoyable.
If you’re an Austen or Heyer fan read it. Take it to the beach and laugh. I hold Charlotte Heywood and Sidney Parker right up there with Austen’s other characters. “Another Lady” did a really good job.
P.S. I’ll leave off with some pictures my awesome niece took of our day at the beach… it’s not Sanditon, but hey, it’s our beach 🙂