By Deborah Yaffe, Jul 22 2013 01:00PM
Critics disagree about Sanditon, the novel Jane Austen left unfinished at her death. Is it a tired rehash of her previous work, indelibly marked by the exhaustion of her final illness? Is it an accomplished but tragically incomplete version of her classic courtship story? Or is it something more interesting: a new departure for a novelist at the height of her powers, a first stab at portraying an England on the cusp of economic and social transformation?
Anne Toledo, the author of the Sanditon continuation featured in today’s Sanditon Summer post, is firmly in the “new departure” camp. Noting that, in Persuasion, Austen prefers the self-made men of the Navy to the landed gentry represented by Sir Walter Elliot and Lady Russell, Toledo announces that her book takes a similar approach: “This tendency is developed in the value given to independence and to paid employment,” she writes in an introduction.
What follows is a bit like a Victorian novel starring Austen characters. Its pages are crowded with events: a scandalous rumored elopement, a troubled pregnancy, a mass food poisoning, a secret engagement, the launch of a successful small business. . . you name it, it’s here.