By Deborah Yaffe, Jul 4 2013 01:00PM
Jane Austen’s Charlotte, the Sanditon completion I’m reviewing today as part of my Sanditon Summer blog series, is not a labor of love self-published by a well-meaning amateur Janeite. It's a collaboration between a mainstream – albeit small -- publishing house and a professional writer with years of journalism experience and two earlier Austen sequels under her belt.
It is also absolutely awful – tediously, unremittingly, unreadably awful. The characters are cardboard, the pacing glacial, the prose impenetrable. Put the book down and back away slowly.
Julia Barrett, the name on Charlotte's title page, is a pseudonym for Julia Braun Kessler (1926-2012), an American journalist who co-wrote her first Austen sequel, Presumption, with the British novelist Gabrielle Donnelly. Donnelly bowed out after Presumption, leaving Kessler to continue her Austenesque career -- she wrote a total of four Austen spinoffs -- on her own.
In an interview now available on YouTube, Kessler has some intelligent things to say about Austen’s Sanditon, and to Kessler's credit, Charlotte attempts to engage with the themes of speculation, property development and economic growth that Austen herself might well have been planning to take further.