From Trafalgar House to Knightsbridge

After reading Jane Austen’s unfinished last novel, Sanditon, for the Austenprose read-along, I was left with the need to know more about the characters that populated that quiet seaside resort town. I had put off reading Sanditon for that very reason–I knew that when I read it, I would be left wanting more and there would be no more to be had. Like the last bite of a wonderful desert, I would cherish the sweetness of that last bite but would be left unsatisfied. Like Austen’s other novels, Sanditon offers a look at the little dramas that mark small-town living. However, this time, Austen takes her readers away from the country to the coast when the observant Charlotte Heywood is invited to stay with the Parkers in their home in Sanditon, a budding seaside resort town that Mr. Parker hopes will become as lucrative as the more well-known bathing spots. In Sanditon, Charlotte is introduced to a fascinating cast of characters, from hypochondriacs to impoverished, but highly romantic wards. Sadly, we only get to know these characters briefly before the fragment ends.

However, in 1975, Marie Dobbs, under the pen name “Another Lady,” took up the challenge to complete Austen’s Sanditon and the result is a delightful and satisfying treat. Another Lady takes up her pen where Austen left off and continues the tale. There is no jarring shift in the narrative style, Another Lady adopts the language and style of Austen, developing the plot and characters in a careful and believable manner. Her Sanditon has all the fun and novelty of Catherine Morland’s adventures, Fanny Price’s astute observations, and the eventfulness Emma’s of close-knit town life.

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After finishing Sanditon, I was in the mood for another social comedy, so I took up Ada Leverson’s Love’s Shadow (received from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program). A close friend of Oscar Wilde’s, Leverson’s style and tone is similar to Wilde’s biting, quick wit. Love’s Shadow offers an engaging look at the ludicrous things we do for love. Like Wilde, Leverson offers a meddlesome cast of characters whose actions only serve to confuse one another. At the heart of the story are the Ottleys, Bruce and Edith, a very ordinary middle-class Edwardian couple wishing for a little more excitement in their very ordinary lives. Edith’s friend, Hyacinth Verney has all the excitement and independence that Edith craves, but only wants for the attention of Cecil Reeve, a young man who only has eyes for a much older woman who refuses to indulge his fancy.

Love’s Shadow is a fast-paced, amusing romp, Leverson revealing the foibles of her characters in a series of vignettes. It almost reminds me of Colette’s Claudine and Annie, particularly the dissatisfaction that seems to accompany love as experienced by Edith and Hyacinth.