For generations, Jane Austen’s devoted fans have loved and cherished her six major novels: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, and Mansfield Park.
But today the Jane Austen novel that’s getting the most attention is a novel our dear author never finished writing: Sanditon.
Maybe you’ve heard of it?
Jane Austen was able to write only twelve chapters of her story about a young woman visiting an up-and-coming seaside resort town in Regency England; Miss Austen’s declining health prevented her from finishing the novel before she passed away in 1817.
But a modern made-for-TV adaptation of Sanditon has taken Jane’s fragment of a story, expanded it, and presented an entirely new period drama for Austen fans.
Comprised of eight episodes, season one of Sanditon the TV drama has already aired in the U.K. Here in the U.S., episodes one through five have aired. Episode six will broadcast this Sunday evening on PBS TV stations across the country.
The main protagonists of the show are Miss Charlotte Haywood (played by Rose Williams) and Mr. Sidney Parker (played by Theo James).
Sidney is a brooding and distant hero—a little like Mr. Darcy, but more prone to passion.
Charlotte is smart, independent, feisty, witty, and a bit naïve about the real world. In other words, she’s a true Austen heroine.
On the most recent episode, spunky Charlotte joined the men in a spirited game of cricket, and showed them all how it’s done by scoring a point for her team.
Austen purists argue that Jane Austen never would have written such a scene (as well as a few others that appeared in early episodes), and that the show’s writers have taken too much license with their script.
I have to confess, I’ve been unsure whether I liked a few of those scenes myself, especially after I read an interview with one of the writers who freely admitted he wanted to “sex up” the story.
But Sanditon the TV drama has grown on me. And after giving it some thought, I’ve decided I don’t mind this updated take on Jane Austen. In fact, Sanditon (the TV version) at its heart is really just fan fiction. In the same way we JAFF writers ask “what if?” and write stories with new challenges for our favorite Austen characters to overcome, Sanditon does the same, using film as its medium.
And in the process, Sandition has struck a chord with a modern-day audience. Fans of the show are vocal and busy. They share Sandition-based fan fiction stories on Wattpad, Tumblr, and FanFiction.net.
They post favorite images on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with hashtags like:
On YouTube there’s at least one Sanditon tribute video with over 1 million views, as well as several others with impressively high viewing stats. (Warning: it contains one of those questionable “sex the story up” scenes I mentioned earlier.)
Having faithfully watched and recorded five episodes, I can confidently state I am #TeamCharlotte. And I’m a proud member of the #SanditonSisterhood.
And this Sunday evening I’ll be parked in front of my television, ready to watch episode 6 of Sanditon.
How about you? Are you watching Sanditon?
What do you think of the series so far?