Sanditon, Austen’s last unfinished work is haute at LibraryThing

This was a happy discovery indeed. LibraryThing lists the most requested new title among their December 2009 Early Reviewers choices as Sanditon, Austen’s last and unfinished novel!

Early Reviewers is a service for LibraryThing members who want to receive free advance copies of books in exchange for a review on their blog. To date, this new Hesperus Press edition of Sanditon has garnered 1356 requests (including mine), even beating out the next new Jane Austen paranormal novel Jane Bites Back at 998. 

Sanditon, the last of Austen’s fictional works, was written from January to March 1817 only four months before her death and was first published in 1925 by Oxford University’s Clarendon Press. It is classified as one of her unfinished novels and is usually combined with her other minor works such as The Watsons and Lady Susan. The original manuscript was bequeathed to Anna Austen Lefroy (Jane Austen’s niece) by her aunt Cassandra Austen in 1845 and remained in the Lefroy family until 1930 when it was presented as a gift by Mary Isabella Lefroy (Anna Austen Lefroy’s grand-daughter) to King’s College, Cambridge where the manuscript resides today. 

Other authors have attempted to finish the story with varying degrees of success including Anna Austen Lefroy (1793-1872). Ironically her continuation is also unfinished. Another by Juliette Shapiro is the most satisfying but in another strange twist does not include Jane Austen’s original text. This new edition by Hesperus Press is unabridged with a foreword by A. C. Grayling a Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. 

Publisher’s description: Charlotte Heywood is privileged to accompany Mr and Mrs Parker to their home in Sanditon – not least because, they assure her, it is soon to become the fashionable epicentre of society summers. Finding the town all but deserted, she is party to the machinations of her socially mobile hosts in their attempts to gather a respectable crowd. As Sanditon fills with visitors, Austen assembles a classic cast of characters possessing varying degrees of absurdity and sense. 

Well … who’da thought that it would draw so much interest? 

I am tickled that so many of my fellow LibraryThing book geeks want to read Sanditon, but am quite puzzled by Hesperus Press’ choice of cover art. Is that a chicken’s arse waving at us? I don’t understand the connection. No chickens, hens or fowl mentioned in Sanditon that I can find. At least the wallpaper looks Regency-ish. Geesh!

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11 thoughts on “Sanditon, Austen’s last unfinished work is haute at LibraryThing

  1. It as awfully strange cover design. Personally, I prefer the completion of this story by “Another Lady”over the version by Juliette Shapiro. Regardless, it is wonderful that the fragment is getting so much deserved attention. Sanditon has such great promise – I would love to read Anna Austen Lefroy’s continuation but it is a bit difficult to get my hands on a copy.

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  2. Oh I feel like a bad Austen fan, I haven’t heard of this one. I’m definitely going to check this one out when it’s released. The cover is a little weird though.

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  3. Laurel Ann, do you know how they’re going to deal with the fact that it is unfinished in this publication? I can’t imagine the novel just abruptly ending!

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    • Heather – this is the full Austen fragment and ends where Austen stopped. Like Gaskell’s last work Wives and Daughters, it just ends unfinished. Not very satisfying since it leaves us hanging, but it still has its merits.

      LA

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  4. One of the things I love about the Sanditon fragment is the way it shows Austen evolving as a writer. The fragment was a first draft so the characters aren’t fully developed but I love that we see Austen retaining her satirical spirit but moving out of the drawing room. She was truly ahead of her time with the Sanditon fragment, starting on the kind of picture of rural town life that writers like Elizabeth Gaskell, the Brontes and Anthony Trollope would later explore. It’s so remarkable that Austen, not only reaching the perfection of the Georgian novel with Emma, but also going on to predict the style of Victorian literature many before it evolved, not only with the Sanditon fragment but also with certain aspects of Persuasion.

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    • Hi R., Thanks for the great observations on Sanditon and for reminding me that it is a first draft. That makes me think of it differently. Austen was way ahead of her time.

      LA

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  5. I have had this sitting on my nightstand for months and have yet to get to it. Why not? I love Austen; I have no idea why I haven’t snuck it in!

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