I’m still waiting my turn to read Eligible…the library line is long and never-ending. But in the meantime, I picked up Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope, another entry in The Austen Project. And this one was my favorite so far.
But does that mean that this one was the best that I’ve read? Not really. I think Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma is objectively better. But I enjoyed this one a whole lot more. It had scandal and swearing and sex and social media. The modernization really worked for me.
In this version, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret are forced to leave Norland with their hippy widow mother, Belle, after the death of their asthmatic father. It turns out that Belle and dear old dad had never actually been married, and so the home that they’ve all known for years is handed off to their half-brother, John and his horrific wife, Fanny. Fanny is a queen bitch, who uses sex to get John to do her bidding and get her whatever she wants, and Norland is only made tolerable by the existence of Fanny’s kind brother, Ed, who has a thing for Elinor. Fanny kicks the girls out of Norland, and the Dashwoods find themselves moving across the country to live on the estate of a distant cousin, Sir John Middleton.
And so the adventure of the Dashwood ladies begins. They meet Sir John’s best friend, the kind Bill Brandon, a retired army officer from the war in Bosnia who now runs a rehabilitation center for veterans addicted to drugs and alcohol; Mrs. Jennings, his gossipy mother-in-law; assorted children, wives, and estate workers; and the Steele sisters, Lucy and Nancy, who both suck beyond belief.
And then we meet Wills. A handsome bachelor who drives around the countryside in his Aston Martin, he sweeps Marianne off of her feet in a frenzy of sex and whispered promises. But of course, Wills isn’t all he seems.
I’ll be honest. A lot of this book didn’t work 100%. The girls spend too much time tweeting and YouTubing and stalking people that they don’t like on Facebook. Elinor is way too much of a pushover. I get that she’s supposed to be closed off and keeps her feelings to herself, but this version of Elinor is just boring. And the Steele sisters were just the worst. THE WORST, I TELL YOU. And I never bought into the whole “Ed is going to keep his promise from years ago and marry Lucy because he’s such an upstanding guy.” Come on.
But still, I had fun with it. I liked that Tommy Palmer (Charlotte Jennings’ husband) wasn’t as much of a jerk here as in the original. Yes, he’s sarcastic, but also, his heart’s in the right place (and also, I always heart Mr. Palmer, because Hugh Laurie).
And I had a good laugh about what a ridiculous couple Robert Ferrars and Lucy Steele ended up being. They sucked.
But most of all, I liked that Trollope was willing to call Willoughby out on his actions and his crap treatment of Marianne. She literally calls him “a vile, complete shit of a man,” and from then on, I was sold. Because really, he is.
I get it, I see the reviews on Amazon and the complaints that the Jane Austen fans have about the sex and swearing. But I think it works for the most part. I don’t think Jane would be thrilled about this adaptation, but I don’t think she’s rolling over in her grave, either. It isn’t as successful an adaptation as Clueless or Bridget Jones, but it passes the time enjoyably enough.