Saturday 18 January 2020

Sanditon by Kate Riordan - My Review

Book cover: Sanditon by Kate Riordan 
Today the review roundup blog tour for Sanditon by Kate Riordan stops here for my review of the book. This is the novelisation of the Sanditon completion mini-series. In the UK, this aired last year, so I've watched the whole series... twice... but it's just started showing in the US. Let's take a look at the blurb and then we will look at what I thought of the book.

Book Description

In the vein of Downton Abbey, Jane Austen's beloved but unfinished masterpiece-often considered her most modern and exciting novel-gets a spectacular second act in this tie-in to a major new limited television series.

Written only months before Austen's death in 1817, Sanditon tells the story of the joyously impulsive, spirited and unconventional Charlotte Heywood and her spiky relationship with the humorous, charming (and slightly wild!) Sidney Parker. When a chance accident transports her from her rural hometown of Willingden to the would-be coastal resort of the eponymous title, it exposes Charlotte to the intrigues and dalliances of a seaside town on the make, and the characters whose fortunes depend on its commercial success. The twists and turns of the plot, which takes viewers from the West Indies to the rotting alleys of London, exposes the hidden agendas of each character and sees Charlotte discover herself... and ultimately find love.

Book cover: Sanditon by Kate Riordan
My Review of Sanditon by Kate Riordan

As this is a novelisation of the series I think I should start by telling you (briefly and in as spoiler-free fashion as is possible) what I thought of the series. In preparation for watching it I read the fragment of Sanditon. by Jane Austen. It really is a fragment, introducing a whole cast of characters but not much more. My deduction from the fragment was that Charlotte was a very normal heroine, who I liked very much. Sidney Parker was the likely hero, and pretty much the rest of the characters were comic relief, all of them being odd in their own way. There was clearly rivalry for Lady Denham's money, and Clara Brereton was pitted against the buffoon Sir Edward Denham and his unlikeable sister Miss Denham in the quest of it.

I felt that in the adaptation, in terms of characters some were the same and some were changed - our heroine Charlotte and Lady Denham were the same as I had envisioned, for example, but Sir Edward Denham is most certainly no buffoon, but a ruthless man, focussed entirely on the pursuit of his inheritance. Miss Denham is cold and unlikeable - until I started to pity her, and then I was absolutely on her side, not in securing an inheritance, but in finding the happiness that I felt she deserved. What about the person I had earmarked as a hero, Sidney Parker? Well, he isn't portrayed as the character that I had expected (like Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey but more handsome, if you are interested!). He's more a Mr Darcy but with less polish and subtlety. I was a bit frustrated by that, because a Mr Darcy-style love/hate hero almost feels like a default choice, due to the success of Pride & Prejudice in popular culture. We literally only just meet Sidney at the end of the fragment. He is described as lively, leading me to expect a light-hearted hero rather than the burdened, sombre and sometimes churlish character in the adaptation. However, his description in Austen's fragment is given by people whose judgement may be faulty, so I wouldn't say that this deviation is counter to Austen's starting point.

I started off watching the adaptation hoping for something that I could believe that Austen herself had written but I had to abandon this hope - we are through her material by midway through the first episode and some of the content I felt was decidedly not Austen. There is some sexual content and although I think Austen would certainly have been aware of sex, she would not have written about it! There is also nudity but I felt this was acceptable nudity. It's in the context of seabathing, which men did in the nude in those times. Once I gave up my admittedly unreasonable hope of somebody channelling Jane Austen and writing something that I could believe came from her I decided that I would need to enjoy Sanditon as an historical drama on its own merits. And I did enjoy it, aside from some frustration at hairstyles I deemed too modern, until the ending.

I am sure you will have heard our splutters of indignation across the pond, as UK viewers found that they were robbed of the 'happy' ending that we had expected so I don't see it as a spoiler to mention it. Instead we are given an ending that I felt was an opening for a second series which left me feeling a little cheated! However, as people viewing it now will have been warned  of the ending, perhaps you won't be as cross as I was about it. I hope that we are treated to a second series, because aside from Charlotte's story, I felt that other stories had been started but not finished, such as that of Miss Lambe, Jane Austen's only non-white character. I also wanted to know what fate had in store for Arthur Parker, who I have a fondness for - he is so funny, and not enough time was devoted to him.

So, moving onto the book. This is a novelisation of the series, rather than a book that has been translated into an adaptation. I think the big plus from this is that we don't get any moments that jar because they've been changed in the adaptation. Everything is just the same, but just enriched by the extra detail that can be added in a book such as characters' thoughts and motivations! There were some things that the book didn't deliver on as well as the adaptation - little details, such as the impressions left on the viewer from looks and visual hints. For example, there was a character who I was sure things wouldn't work out for based on something visual, although I will be fair and say that Kate Riordan dropped hints in other ways in relation to this particular person.

I really enjoyed reading this book; it took me through the series in my mind with additional embellishments of detail. The author's style isn't like Austen - probably more modern and simplified compared to her in terms of language, but you could feel absolutely immersed in the life of Sanditon.

Obviously, huge spoilers for the series abound in the novel, so I'd recommend that if you enjoy the series, you then move on to the novel; personally I wouldn't do it the other way round because I so enjoyed reliving it in my mind.

As stated above, there is some sex in the adaptation but the same scenes in the novel are decidedly non-graphic, which I felt was a good choice.

My recommendation is to give the adaptation a chance, bearing in mind that it isn't Austen, and there is no telling where she would have taken the story. If you enjoy it then I'd certainly give this novelisation by Kate Riordan a go. I enjoyed it, and I'd rate it as a 4 star read.

4 star read

Sanditon books
My thanks go to Grand Central Publishing who provided me with a copy of Sanditon by Kate Riordan for my honest review, and a copy of The World of Sanditon by Sara Sheridan, which I hope to read soon! I'd also like to thank Laurel Ann from Austenprose, for organising the blog tour.

Author Bio

Kate Riordan is a writer and journalist from England. Her first job was as an editorial assistant at the Guardian newspaper, followed by a stint as deputy editor for the lifestyle section of London bible, Time Out magazine. There she had assignments that saw her racing reindeers in Lapland, going undercover in London's premier department store and gleaning writing tips (none-too subtly) during interviews with some of her favorite authors. After becoming a freelancer, she left London behind and moved to the beautiful Cotswolds in order to write her first novel.

Book cover: Sanditon by Kate Riordan
Buy Links

Sanditon by Kate Riordan is available to buy now, in paperback, ebook and on audio.

Amazon US / Amazon UK/ Amazon CA / Audible US / Audible UK / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository / Indiebound / Add to Goodreads Shelf

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January 13              Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog
January 14              History Lizzie
January 17              Babblings of a Bookworm
January 20              Confessions of a Book Addict
January 20              Living Read Girl
January 25              Margie’s Must Reads
January 26              My Jane Austen Book Club
February 03            The Lit Bitch
February 10            Unabridged Chick
February 10            Laura’s Reviews
February 13            Bookfoolery
February 14            Half Agony, Half Hope
February 17            Scuffed Slippers, Wormy Books
February 18            Impressions in Ink
February 23            From Pemberley to Milton
February 24            So Little Time…
February 24            Vesper’s Place
February 26            Austenesque Reviews

February 28            My Vices and Weaknesses

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  1. Great review Ceri. I appreciated you taking us through your impressions of the series and then compared it to the book. Our opinions are very similar on both versions. My hope is that there will be a 2nd series so they can fix the things that just weren't right in light of Austen's style, tone, and humor. Best, LA

    1. Thanks Laurel Ann. At first I was too cross to wish for a second series, but once I'd calmed down I did. There are so many threads left dangling, I would love to see what the programme makers intend on doing with some of the storylines.

  2. I just finished watching the first two episodes and came to the same conclusion you did about letting go of the need for more Austen and seeing it in its own right as a historical drama. I'll take your advice and read the novelization after the first season ends so I don't get spoilers.

    1. I was glad I'd done it this way round, watch then read. As this is a novelisation of the tv series there is nothing changed, just the book gives greater detail.

  3. Thanks for the great review, Ceri! I bought this as soon as it became available for pre-order, even if I had mixed feelings about the adaptation. You're so right, it wasn't Austen, but it was a good historical drama. Disappointed about the grand finale though. I do hope it was just leaving room for 'part two.'

    1. I really enjoyed it, once I stopped expecting it to be Austen. I was surprised by how much I felt for Miss Denham - I never would have expected that from the fragment!

  4. Est-ce que le livre existe en français ? Merci d'avance.

    1. Je crois le livre est seulement en Anglais, malhereusement :(


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