Sense and Sensibility – the 2013 edition, is a re-telling of the timeless novel by Jane Austen, written by Joanne Trollope as part of the Austen Project – a plan for 21st century writers to modernise some of Austen’s most beloved classics. Thoughts? So far, just a bit average.
The 2013 version of Sense and Sensibility has the same overall story structure as the Austen original. Marianne and Elinor Dashwood are beautiful sisters with completely different personalities; while Elinor is smart, clear-headed and well-mannered, Marianne is the opposite; selfish, carefree and always following her heart – no matter how silly or whimsical it may be. When their father dies, they, alongside their mother and younger sister, are booted out of Norland Park and have to relocate to the remote location of Barton Cottage, which is owned by a family member. To add to the mix, Elinor has to contend with another woman for the lovely, if a bit confused, Edward, and Marianne is swept away by a man that seems far too good to be true.
OK, first thing I have to admit to is that I never finished Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I wanted to, but I was about 15 and the constant waffling on about drinking cups of tea was more than I could take. As a result, I can’t tell you honestly what it would be like for a fan of the book to read the 2013 re-telling.
What I can tell you is that while I may not be a fan of literature from Austen’s time, I have read a few of her other novels and she was a fantastic writer. While she must of been bored out of her mind, living in a time when a woman’s entire existence depended on looking pretty and bagging a husband at 17, it did mean that us lucky future generations got to see firsthand what ridiculous talent and brains she must have had.
And based on that, I can say that Joanne Trollope’s version disappointed me sorely. While I’m a fan of the ‘chick lit’ as much as the next girl, and as I was rather looking forward to a modern spin on a classic (if misogynistic) love story, I expected a lot more than this novel delivered. Instead, Trollope has somehow managed to turn this beloved novel into an easily forgettable romance with average characters.
Not only were there typos and spelling errors, but Trollope tried too hard to make it ‘modern’. She makes her characters refer to Facebook, Twitter and text messaging, when overall none of them make contribution to the storyline whatsoever. She makes an effort to show that the girls are from the 21st century when Elinor points out that it doesn’t matter ‘if it’s just about sex’, but yet she fails to acknowledge any other aspects of how a young girl in her 20s would think and feel. We have no recognition of the friends they’re leaving behind, the fact that they (most probably) had a relatively great night life, or that they’re bored by the country life that is now in store for them.
Secondly, I wasn’t a massive fan of the characters. Once again, this could be because I haven’t read the original, but I found the characters weak and unlikeable. The only character that I liked was Elinor, and frankly, I found it hard to believe that she would be such a saint in modern day life. Marianne was insipid, selfish and downright lazy – and her mother was just as bad. One massive point in the novel is that money isn’t important, yet neither Marianne nor Mrs Dashwood had any urge to get a job ‘because they weren’t qualified’.
Lastly, what is the point of a good romance if you don’t like the leading men? What on earth does Elinor see in Edward? Not only does he not have much of a clue as to what he’s doing in his life, but he’s unwilling to stand up to his mother, the terrifying Lucy Steele, or his sister, Fanny, despite the fact that he’s crazy in love with Elinor. I’m sorry, but if I liked a guy and I found out that he was willing to get married so as not to ‘rock the boat’ I’d automatically be turned off.
Granted, I’m being a tad harsh in this review, and there may be fans of Sense and Sensibility that thought Joanne Trollope did a great job. In all honesty, I won’t be able to say for certain whether the Austen Project is a good idea until I’ve read modern versions of the books I HAVE previously read.
In saying that, if they stuff up Pride and Prejudice and make Mr Darcy into some awful Facebook whore than I may scream bloody murder.
What do you think of The Austen Project? Are you a fan of Sense and Sensibility, the original or the 2013 version? Let me know!