One of my favorite authors is Jane Austen. I adore every one of her books. They take me to a happy place and I could watch the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice (Hello Colin Firth!!!!) any day of the week! My favorite Austen novel is Sense & Sensibility. While it’s not as lighthearted a book as it’s predecessors, I love the complexities of the relationships, especially between sisters, that Austen writes about. Sense & Sensibility breaks my heart every time I read it or watch the Ang Lee movie. But how would I feel about one of my favorite books being modernized? This very question is part of a heated debate. The debate is this. Should Jane Austen books be modernized? The reason of the debate? Joanne Trollope has just published a modern version of this time honored classic and all in all I have to say I enjoyed her version.
Trollope has done a good job of updating the 19th century setting to present day, without overstepping the boundaries of the original plot and characters, with a few exceptions. Some of those exceptions were a hit and others were a miss. Because Trollope chose to place the book in the 21st century, the Dashwood women had access to all the joys of modern technology: cell phones, text messages, Facebook. I was ok with that as it was realistic. What was more troubling to me was the circumstances around the Dashwood women hadn’t changed and as 21st century women that was a hard pill to swallow. Trollope tries to make us believe that women have no legal rights at Norland Park and that the women are impoverished gentry. Not going to lie it was hard to like characters who made little attempt towards their own independence. To remain in their social circle, Austen’s Elinor and Marianne had to marry. Without a husband, they would have lost their status, rely upon wealthy, charitable relatives, or become a governess. Today there are more options available to women so it’s pretty awful that the women in this book would claim they aren’t equipped to be useful for anything.
Trollope’s Elinor is studying to be an architect. When the family is forced out of Norland Park, she must give up her education at the university. Bill Brandon (an updated Colonel Brandon) helps Elinor get a job at an architect’s firm near Barton Park. She is getting paid pennies, literally below minimum wage. And this is where I got annoyed with Elinor, who was one of my favorite characters in the original. Trollope portrays her as a saint. Elinor is thrilled that she’s getting paid nothing even when her family is penniless. I wanted, yearned, for more from Elinor! I wanted her to stand up to her family and demand something better! I wanted her to be independent and change things. She didn’t.
Marianne, like in Austen’s version, gets away with more than her older sister. She is spoiled and too ‘delicate to work,’ as she suffers from asthma and depression. When she meets Wills (Willoughby) and begins her passionate relationship with him, it comes as a relief to everyone. Marianne is only suited to marry a rich man. Again, hard to identify with…..
Trollope writes a story with a large cast of characters, all of whom assumed their 21st century roles but it just wasn’t believable at times. There were no huge departures from Austen’s plot or the circumstances surrounding them. And I wish there was. I wish Trollope had completely modernized the entire novel, instead of parts of it. It was like watching the Leonardo DiCaprio/Claire Danes version of Romeo & Juliet. Something was missing. I will applaud Trollope for having the courage to tackle a book, an author, a brand as established as Jane Austen as that was not an easy feat. Sense & Sensibility, the original, will still remain one of my favorite books. The remake by Trollope was enjoyable, but left me wanting more.
For more information on Trollope, visit her website.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. You’ve read what I think about Sense & Sensibility. Check out the other stops on this tour to see what my fellow fabulous bloggers have to say: