I would say there’s a reason why novels go unfinished, and the obvious reason is that the person dies. And here we are!
In this collection, which I will separate out, we have two unfinished novels and one short novel by Jane Austen. For the most part, I don’t know what to tell you. I will explain why I don’t trust unfinished novels. Well, because they weren’t finished. So any take we have on them is necessarily partial, incomplete, and somewhat uninformed. But Jane Austen is a known quantity, so it’s bizarre to see this first, Sanditon, as anything more than a completist task or an academic exercise. It’s feels strange to consider it anything other than a kind of gravedigging. The scope is wrong, the product itself is unexciting in its actually, and so what we have instead is a kind of morbid task and one that’s ultimately pretty unsatisfying.
What are you meant to feel a the end of these 75 odd pages? Oh what if!(?) She wrote six complete novels and a handful of other writings, but also it’s been 200 years since she died. So it’s not like having someone cut off in their unfulfilled prime, nor is it like having a close associate. Instead, it’s an unfinished manuscript to deal with. But what’s that? You want it finished? Ok, I guess. Later versions of this book were finished by “Another lady.” Great! Pass.
As for the writing itself, of course it’s good:
“A gentleman and lady travelling from Tonbridge towards the part of Susses coast which lies between Hastings and Eastbourne being induced by business to quit the high road, and attempt a very rough lane, were overturned in toiling up its long ascent half rock, half sand. –The accident happened just beyond the only gentleman’s house near the lane–a house, which their driver on first being required to take that direction, had conceived to be necessarily their object, and had with most unwilling looks been constrained to pass by–. He had grumbled and shaken his shoulders so much indeed, and pitied and cut his horses so sharply, that he might have been open to the suspicion of overturning them on purpose (especially as the carriage was not his master’s own) if the road had not indisputably become considerably worse than before, as soon as the premises of the said house were left behind–expressing with a most intelligent portentous countenance that beyond it no wheels but cart wheels could safely proceed.”
Another unfinished novel. This time not because she died but because it was abandoned. I happen to think that not every Jane Austen is great (well just Northager Abbey–with still Emma and Mansfield Park to read), so there’s not a clear need for the books she put aside. There’s a later collection of short fiction I plan on reading called the Juvenilia which apparently collections things she wrote at like 17-21, so well, we’ll see. Anyway. Did you know that Jane Austen named one of her characters “Emma Watson”? So obviously, she should play her. This one again is just ok.
But, since I am a high school English teacher, I will show you this funny passage:
“Poverty is a great evil, but to a woman of education and feeling it ought not, it cannot be the greatest.–I would rather be a teacher at a school (and I can think of nothing worse) than marry a man I did not like.’
‘I would rather do anything than be a teacher at a school–‘ said her sister. ‘I have been at school, Emma, and know what a life they lead you; you never have.–I should not like marrying a disagreeable man anymore than yourself,–but I do not think there are very many disagreeable men;–I think I could like any good humoured man with a comfortable income.–I suppose my aunt brought you up to be rather refined.'”
So I haven’t seen Love and Friendship, so I can’t really say much about that movie. But I will say that it’s an odd title choice, given that she also wrote a short story/novellette called “Love and Friendship”.
This is an epistolary novel. I really like those. But I only mostly liked this novel. I like the narrative technique of always relating back to events rather than telling them head on, and Austen does this throughout. Lady Susan does something terrible and then everyone talks about it later. For the most part, Lady Susan is never devilish enough to be delightfully evil and not good enough for me to root for, so I was just stuck in the middle. Give me a devil, please.
Overall, this collection is odds and ends mostly, plus Lady Susan. I am hoping for more when I continue to read other odds and ends, but I think it will be more plodding, interesting nothingness.