By Deborah Yaffe, Jun 17 2013 01:00PM
The sky is blue, the sun is warm, and it seems only appropriate to spend the summer at the beach – which, for Janeites, means at Sanditon, the fictional seaside town where Jane Austen set the novel she left unfinished at her death.
Sanditon is on Janeite radar screens these days because the makers of the delightful “Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” a web series updating Pride and Prejudice as a video blog, are trying to work the same magic on Austen’s unfinished fragment, in a version called “Welcome to Sanditon.” (A month along, the results are. . .wobbly, but last Monday’s episode seemed like a return to form, so I remain hopeful.)
“Welcome to Sanditon” got me thinking about the other efforts made over the years to finish the manuscript that Austen left behind. She made a tantalizing beginning, as I wrote here earlier this year: in twelve chapters that fill about seventy printed pages, Austen assembles a promising cast of characters but gives few hints about what, exactly, will happen to them.
Unsurprisingly, this truncated MS has tempted more than one Janeite to try her (or sometimes his) hand at a conclusion. Although Sanditon spinoffs are relatively few – nothing like the groaning shelves of Pride and Prejudice sequels – they provide an interesting snapshot of the range of Austen fan fiction, and the range of attitudes toward Austen and her work.
I found thirteen stories that appear to be either completions of Austen’s fragment or homages (interpreted loosely) to it, and I’ve read twelve of them. (The thirteenth, D.J. Eden’s Sanditon, was published in 2002 by a British vanity press with a reportedly unsavory reputation, and copies seem to exist only in a few libraries in the UK.) Of course, I may well have missed others -- Lord knows the world of Austen fan-fic is a big one.
Over the next month, I’ll be offering short summaries and appraisals of these twelve Sanditons, and a few thoughts on what these appropriations – nostalgic or melodramatic, post-modern or proto-feminist – say about Janeite appreciation of our author.
If you’re keeping score at home, here – in chronological order of composition/publication – are the thirteen Sanditon spinoffs I’ve identified, twelve of which I’ll be covering during my Sanditon Summer:
1. Anna Austen Lefroy. Jane Austen’s Sanditon: A Continuation by Her Niece. (Mary Gaither Marshall, ed.). Chicago: Chiron Press, 1983. (Read my review here.)
3. Marie Dobbs. Sanditon – A Novel by Jane Austen and Another Lady. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1975. (Read my review here.)
5. Julia Barrett. Jane Austen’s Charlotte: Her Fragment of a Last Novel, Completed. New York: M. Evans and Co., Inc., 2000. (Read my review here.)
6. D. J. Eden. Sanditon. Minerva Press, 2002.
7. Juliette Shapiro. A Completion of Sanditon, Jane Austen’s Unfinished Novel. College Station, TX: Virtualbookworm.com Publishing Inc., 2003. (Read my review here.)
11. Anne Toledo. A Return to Sanditon: A completion of Jane Austen’s fragment. Amazon Digital Services, 2011. (Read my review here.)
And then there's #14 -- not a book, but still:
This is heavy duty but nice to have a consort of such. I mean to have others with you who feels and see as you do; yet it is nice to experience of things solely.
I am not writer enough (at all) to be a janeites. Thank you.
Anyone can be a Janeite, Ainee! No writing ability required. :-)