Book Review: Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

  • Method of Obtaining: I received a copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Harper
  • Release Date:  10.29.2013

From one of the most insightful chroniclers of family life working in fiction today comes a contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel of love, money, and two very different sisters

John Dashwood promised his dying father that he would take care of his half sisters. But his wife, Fanny, has no desire to share their newly inherited estate with Belle Dashwood’s daughters. When she descends upon Norland Park with her Romanian nanny and her mood boards, the three Dashwood girls-Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret-are suddenly faced with the cruelties of life without their father, their home, or their money.

As they come to terms with life without the status of their country house, the protection of the family name, or the comfort of an inheritance, Elinor and Marianne are confronted by the cold hard reality of a world where people’s attitudes can change as drastically as their circumstances.

With her sparkling wit, Joanna Trollope casts a clever, satirical eye on the tales of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Reimagining Sense and Sensibility in a fresh, modern new light, she spins the novel’s romance, bonnets, and betrothals into a wonderfully witty coming-of-age story about the stuff that really makes the world go around. For when it comes to money, some things never change. . . .

I also recommend:

My Review:

When I first heard about The Austen Project (modernization of Jane Austen’s works being put out by Harper) I was a bit dubious.  I mean, I love Austen’s books – count me amount the hordes of fans who think they are just perfect.  Now, mind you there are a few books out there, like Longbourn by Jo Baker, that play with some of the characters a bit, but I enjoyed them due to their authenticity and the respect that was evident for Austen’s writing.  But still, I was wary about Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope.

Let me tell you why.  First, I knew nothing of Trollope’s writing.  She has an impressive resume of books, but I’d never experienced them; in fact, I’d never heard of Trollope before picking up Sense & Sensibility.  Second, while Pride & Prejudice will always rank up there in my esteem of Austen’s work, slowly Sense & Sensibility has been moving toward the top of that list.  I think that is due to my own aging self and the appreciation I have for supremely awkward situations (Lucy, Edward, and Elinor anyone?) and also due to my absolute love of Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood in the movie.  If you haven’t seen it, you must as soon as possible.

I was also worried that in addition to gussying up the language into a more modern sense, liberties would be taken with the story that would take some of the things I love away, like the awkwardness.  Granted, I wasn’t thinking along the lines of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters – but still, there’s an awful lot you can do when re-writing a classic, and I worried that the story would become juvenile.

So with those reservations said, let me talk about what I loved about Trollope’s re-imagining of Sense & Sensibility.  First, the relationships.  While it might seem a stretch to work inheritance and incomes from Austen’s day into our present day lives, it worked well.  The death of the Dashwood patriarch throws Belle Dashwood and her daughters into a horrible quandary.  Add into the mix, the subtle twist that Trollope gives the story in order for it to make sense that they don’t inherit and you’ve got a good, solid base.

Trollope also incorporates little bits of technology into the story without changing the integrity of what Austen had to say.  Marianne, passionate, full-of-romance, Marianne spends her time texting and emailing rather than waiting forlornly for a letter by post.  Willoughby’s influence on the young woman that Col. Brandon was watching out for made complete sense in today’s day and age, and Elinor’s desire to see her family independent and well-off also translated well.

Unfortunately, what did not translate well, was Edward.  Poor Edward – in Austen’s day he came off as noble; a young man willing to give up a fortune in order to do the right thing.  But today, Edward simply came off as the guy who will probably end up working a minimum wage job for the rest of his life unless he can get a handout from someone with some business sense.  Edward was the only disappointment I had, and I don’t believe that was Trollope’s fault.  For the first time, I saw Edward as Jane might have seen him and I understood a bit more clearly why the scenes in the original were as awkward as they came off being.  Young men, noble while they might be, were still so dependent on their mothers or aunts or grandmothers and subject to their rule, no matter how much we, in this day and age, might have thought those women powerless, they still had some iota of power.  This was demonstrated well through Edward’s mother, through Fanny, and through Willoughby’s aunt.

I would love to do a side-by-side comparison of the original and this modernization and to examine the impact those three women had in both cases.  I think it would be an interesting study and I love that Harper has chosen to do this project – I think it will not only bring some fresh new faces to the Austen scene, but will awaken new ideas in us old-timers who still love to study and admire Austen and her creations.

Check out what these bloggers had to say!

Austenprose | Diary of an Eccentric | A Spoonful of Happy Endings

Book Review: In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl

In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl

  • Method of Obtaining: I received a copy from the publisher.
  • Published by:  Allen and Unwin
  • Release Date:  10.01.2012

A vivid and compelling story of love, war and secrets, set against the backdrop of WWI France. ‘In the beginning, it was the summers I remembered – long warm days under the palest blue skies, the cornflowers and forget-me-nots lining the road through the Lys forest, the buzz of insects going about their work, Violet telling me lies.’ Iris is getting old. A widow, her days are spent living quietly and worrying about her granddaughter, Grace, a headstrong young doctor. It’s a small sort of life. But one day an invitation comes for Iris through the post to a reunion in France, where she served in a hospital during WWI. Determined to go, Iris is overcome by the memories of the past, when as a shy, naive young woman she followed her fifteen-year-old brother, Tom, to France in 1914 intending to bring him home. On her way to find Tom, Iris comes across the charismatic Miss Ivens, who is setting up a field hospital in the old abbey of Royaumont, north of Paris. Putting her fears aside, Iris decides to stay at Royaumont, and it is there that she truly comes of age, finding her capability and her strength, discovering her passion for medicine, making friends with the vivacious Violet and falling in love. But war is a brutal thing, and when the ultimate tragedy happens, there is a terrible price that Iris has to pay, a price that will echo down the generations. A moving and uplifting novel about the small, unsung acts of heroism of which love makes us capable.

I recommend:

My Review:

It’s strange how things go in waves; for the last few years I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading WWII books from all sorts of different perspectives and covering nearly every country affected by that war.  Then, just for the last few months I seem to have amassed a bunch of WWI titles that are waiting for me to read.  In Falling Snow  is not the first of those titles that I’ve read this year, but it is the one I’ve enjoyed the most for a few different reasons.

MacColl’s writing reminds me in a way of Kate Morton’s.  She took a modern-day story and wrapped a historical tale in it.  Both stories were connected by more than meets the eye and really kept me guessing the entire way through the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed not only the WWI parts of the book, but also the modern day sections and was always hesitant to be ripped away from the story (both of them!) which is really unusual for me.  Normally, I prefer one story over the other, but that wasn’t the case with In Falling Snow .

MacColl also spends quite a bit of time talking about the accomplishments of the women during the war.  Women from Scotland, England, Australia, and Canada all featured in the historical parts of this book and their professions ranged from doctors/surgeons to mechanics and drivers.  They were right there, bringing in the soldiers from the front lines in France, and attempting to patch them up (and often getting the short end of the stick due to the prejudice some of the men held against women physicians).  The setting is also a neat one – the hospital started up in an old abbey that was remodeled by the women into a functioning place of healing.

As I mentioned earlier, the modern setting also held great interest for me.  MacColl touches on not only females in the surgical workplace in more modern times, but also the conflict between midwives and doctors and also what happens when sometimes the wrong decision is made.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Grace through her story and I found it to be interesting when paralleled against her grandmother’s story.

Mostly though, let me just say that this book had a moment that had me gasping out loud.  As in, I was sitting in bed, reading, and loudly exclaimed “Oh my!” and fluttered my hand a little bit.  It was that surprising.  In order to find out what it is, though, you will need to pick up In Falling Snow and see for yourself.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Reason(s) for Reading:
  • This is one of my comfort reads – and since 2011 is my year of re-reads, I figured January would be a good month for P&P.
I  also recommend:
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Summary from GoodReads:

Pride And Prejudice, the story of Mrs. Bennet’s attempts to marry off her five daughters is one of the best-loved and most enduring classics in English literature. Excitement fizzes through the Bennet household at Longbourn in Hertfordshire when young, eligible Mr. Charles Bingley rents the fine house nearby. He may have sisters, but he also has male friends, and one of these — the haughty, and even wealthier, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy — irks the vivacious Elizabeth Bennet, the second of the Bennet girls. She annoys him. Which is how we know they must one day marry.

My Review:

I was recently “attacked” on a review I posted on a well-known site for criticizing a classic that I just didn’t enjoy.  In the attack, this person accused me of having never read another classic and, as such, the reason I didn’t enjoy said novel was because of lack of education in the classics.  (I worded it much more nicely than she did).

I read Pride and Prejudice before I was a teenager.  This book spawned my love of classics.  I went on to read everything provided to me by my book-loving Aunt and then I raided my father’s study bookshelves for Jules Verne, Alexander Dumas and even a little Milton.  I’ve been reading classics for over 20 years and I think at this point I know what stories I enjoy and which I don’t – and I can accept the fact that not all classics do it for all people.  Dickens, I’m looking at you.

But with Pride and Prejudice I get everything I love in a classic.  Romance, a dashing lead man (with just enough mystery and intrigue), a strong-willed leading woman in Elizabeth.  I get silly giggles over subtle interactions that bring out that “uncomfortable” feeling in the characters, I feel the rage of Elizabeth with Darcy’s first proposal and I also feel the softening of the heart beginning with that fateful letter.

I also grew up in a family filled with girls.  I am the eldest of 6 girls (all from the same two parents, yes) ((and three brothers too)).  Jane Austen does a fantastic job of capturing the different personalities that emerge with sisters.  There’s the responsible, stoic eldest, the strong-willed, the mundane, the follower and the flighty.  I focused quite a bit on the sisters relationship with this read-through and enjoyed catching even now a few things that had before escaped my attention.

Pride and Prejudice is a classic.  It’s a fantastic movie (both of them, but Colin Firth edges it out for Mr. Darcy for me!).  It’s a story that grew gracefully with me as I aged and a story I can look forward to enjoying for hopefully many years to come.  And one day, I plan to be that Aunt the provides this book to my own nieces and to experience through their eyes the first thrill that famous opening line brings.