Monday, October 24, 2011
“What elements of Sense and Sensibility make it ripe for a sequel?” by Rebecca Ann Collins (and GIVEAWAY!)
While it is always possible for an imaginative writer to create the conditions needed to continue any story- as is demonstrated by the innumerable Austen “sequels” that have appeared in recent times, there are some books that leave the door open or at least ajar for a continuation. In these cases, a creative writer has the opportunity to tell a credible and interesting story.
However, if one decides to pass through that door into the domain of another writer, one is conscious of being a guest in that environment and of the need to be sensitive to the original author’s intentions- particularly in relation to character development. This is particularly significant when using the classic works of a beloved writer like Jane Austen- e.g-Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. While all characters evolve and may change in some ways over time, it isn’t credible or ethical to distort another writer’s characters out of recognition.
I have been a Jane Austen addict since the age of twelve and have researched and studied her life and work extensively. Having worked for ten years on the ten volumes of the Pemberley Chronicles series, in which we followed the lives of the characters over a period of some fifty years, I had learned a great deal about the political and social history of nineteenth century England. All this prepared me for the work I undertook on Sense and Sensibility in 2009/10.
To answer your question specifically-- there are some elements in the original novel that provide options for a continuation of the story. As readers who are familiar with the novel would know, Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen’s first novel, tells the story of three sisters Elinor, Marianne and Margaret Dashwood and their widowed mother-who are faced with a quite desperate situation, when the death of their father leaves them homeless and poor. The generosity of a relative- Sir John Middleton takes them into Devonshire and a new social circle, where after some of the usual disappointments and debacles of the type that attend every 19th century romance, the book ends with two of the sisters married to exemplary gentlemen.
However, while Elinor’s union to Edward Ferrars is one of those “marriages made in heaven”- where happiness seems guaranteed, I could not have the same confidence in the way young, romantic Marianne – having been betrayed by the handsome gentleman she had idolized all summer, had been settled into a rather staid marriage with a man twice her age, with none of the qualities she had claimed were essential to her happiness. ( He even wore flannel vests!!!)
With all due respect to Miss Austen, it did feel like a convenient way of tying up the loose strands of the story, but it didn’t ring true. Not because Colonel Brandon is an unsuitable husband for Marianne, for he is indeed a man of honour and loves Marianne dearly, but because we see nothing in Marianne’s development to convince us that she genuinely loves him. Nor can we be certain that Marianne is completely over her romantic infatuation with Willoughby- her faithless cavalier, who has made an unhappy marriage of convenience and still claims he loves Marianne and hates Colonel Brandon.
Then there was Margaret- the youngest sister- pretty, precocious and keen to learn, she is only thirteen years old at the conclusion of the novel. I felt she should have the chance to follow her own “expectations of happiness” in a new environment. A sequel would provide an opportunity to develop her character and talents and see how she turns out. Being only a little girl at the end of the original novel, she affords one the opportunity to create quite an interesting young woman in a sequel.
As for Mrs Dashwood, she is a well meaning and kindly woman- if a little silly, and it seemed unfair to leave her stranded at Barton Cottage after her daughters left the nest, with nothing to do but grow old, in an era when single or widowed women in straightened circumstances were pathetic creatures indeed- usually dependent upon the reluctant charity of relatives.
In addition, the original novel contains a collection of bizarre minor characters created by Jane Austen, who stand ready to add interest and humour to the tale. I had been playing with possibilities for continuing the story, and was delighted when Sourcebooks agreed that it was a good idea. Which is how “Expectations of Happiness” evolved into a sequel. (The title is taken from Sense and Sensibility – “That sanguine expectation of happiness that is happiness itself”)
I hope your readers also agree and look forward very much to reading their comments, when they have read “Expectations of Happiness”
They can contact me via your blog or the contact page on my website-
Thanks again for hosting this page and all the best,
Rebecca Ann Collins.
Sourcebooks is going to send one lucky winner a copy of Expectations of Happiness by Rebecca Ann Collins.
If you would like to win a copy of Expectations of Happiness by Rebecca Ann Collins please leave a comment about what intrigues you about the novel or this guest blog.
As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.
For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.
I will be using random.org (or a monte carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.
This contest is only open to US and Canadian residents (Sorry!).
No P.O. Boxes.
The deadline for entry is midnight, Friday November 4th.