• Deborah Yaffe

Hunting for Easter eggs

Two episodes of the much-hyped TV adaptation of Sanditon, the novel Jane Austen left unfinished at her death, have aired in Britain over the past eleven days, and reviews so far are. . . mixed. At best. Words like “cringey” and “dull” have been employed (as, to be fair, have “refreshingly loose.”) One scene has been compared to “a school video designed for 10-year-olds.”


We Americans won’t get to decide for ourselves until January 12, when the show launches on PBS’ Masterpiece. But British viewers, at least those of the Janeite persuasion, have already been given an incentive to keep watching: Scavenger hunt!


It seems that production designer Grant Montgomery has sprinkled thirty-five references to Austen and her other novels throughout Sanditon’s eight episodes, perhaps in hopes that the show will become the center of a fan cult dedicated to freezing and parsing every frame of the DVD.


Among the hidden Austen references, apparently, are a copy of Pride and Prejudice stashed on a bookshelf and a Sanditon map featuring streets, gardens, and promenades named Bennet, Bertram, Bingley, Brandon, Crawford, Darcy, Dashwood, Elliot, Ferrars, Knightley, Tilney, Wentworth, Wickham, and Willoughby, as well as “Moorland” – presumably, a tribute to the heroine of Northanger Abbey from someone who doesn’t know how to do a text search.


“It’s like Jane Austen’s greatest hits,” Montgomery told the Daily Mail. “The Jane Austen society visited the set and couldn’t help but laugh at all the Austen jokes included on some of the posters in the town.”


It all sounds kind of fun. And judging from those reviews, Sanditon may need all the fun it can get.

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