HarperCollins has launched The Austen Project with Joanna Trollopeís reimagining of Jane Austenís Sense and Sensibility, her first published work (1811). The Austen Project will over the next few years release reimagined works of Austenís six published novel. Sense and Sensibility will be followed by two novels in 2014, Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid and Pride and Prejudice by Curtis Sittenfeld. Alexander McCall Smith will then reinvent Austenís story of Emma. Persuasion and Mansfield Park are yet to be assigned authors.
There have been so many reimaginingís of Austenís six published books it is impossible to list them all. Lost in Austen, Clueless, a contemporary Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and so the list goes on, books for adults and books for children. It seems we can never get enough of Austenís great works. The Janites, the gatekeepers of Austenís work, shake their heads in sorrow at the reworking of Austenís novels, but publishers continue to encourage the reworking of her six published novels as insatiable readers continue to want more.
HarperCollins has selected some of the most highly regarded writers and brought them together for this project. When asked why she agreed to rewrite Sense and Sensibility Joanna Trollope responded that she could not possibly refuse such an offer.
The characters are the same, the wonderful Dashwood sisters; dependable Elinor, romantic Marianne and flighty Margaret are still the crux of the story. They lose beautiful Norland House at the start of the novel to their step brother John. It turns out Belle was not married to Mr Dashwood and so she and her daughters are promptly turned out of their home.
In a similar vein to the book the Dashwood girls are rescued by Sir John who gives them lodgings in his cottage. Trollope has given Elinor and Marianne artistic professions. Elinor is studying architecture and Marianne music. Margaret is still at school. Elinor swiftly finds herself a job to assist the family in their financial situation, but dreamer Marianne becomes love struck by ĎWillsí.
The story follows on as Austenís did with the addition of modern culture. The dashing John Willoughby, a dastardly chap who wrenches Marianneís heart, does not turn up in a carriage, but in the splendour of an Aston Martin. By contrast Edward Ferrars, brother in law to the Dashwood girls, drives an old orange car with a stripe down its side.
Modern appliances firmly place this book in the 21st century. IPods as well as social media such as Twitter and Facebook all get a mention. Clothing has also been appropriately brought up to date with Elinor often described as wearing her fatherís cardigan and Ďconverse bootsí when the family is at its lowest point.
John Willoughby is referred to as ĎWillsí while Colonel Brandon has been renamed Bill Brandon in Trollopeís novel, but remains the self-effacing, quiet gentleman that Austen first described.
The story stays true to the original, but delicately leaves more room for ambiguity. Puritans may stay away, but fans of Trollopeís will adore this addition to her fine list of novels.
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