Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel Sanditon ended after 22,000 words and midway into what may have been chapter twelve. Her draft manuscript was a bright beginning introducing us to the seaside town in development as a health resort and a list of over 20 characters. For anyone who has turned to the last page and reached her last lines “Mr. Hollis. poor Mr. Hollis! It was impossible not to feel him hardly used: to obliged to stand back in his own house and see the best place by the fire constantly occupied by Sir Henry Denham.” and not felt a pang of regret that you have read the last of her creative output, you are advised to read no further. For those who did, it is sad to reflect that no more would we be delighted by Jane’s Austen’s witty pen.
I readily admit after finishing the fragment that I was hooked into the story and characters and craved further development and a dénouement. The next best thing to Jane Austen’s actual words is a continuation by another author’s pen. Sanditon, even though it is not as well known as one of her six major novels, has its fair share of completions and retellings to choose from. It has the august distinction of being the first sequel or continuation attempted after Jane Austen’s death by her niece, Anna Lefroy. Unfortunately, she did not finish her novel either, but there are others who have. Here is a partial list of novels that are currently available in print with publisher’s descriptions.
Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Unfinished Masterpiece Completed, by Jane Austen and Juliette Shapiro
Had Jane Austen lived to complete Sanditon, it would undoubtedly be as famous and treasured as her other novels. But unfinished at her death, the masterpiece has remained mysterious and overlooked. Now, author Juliette Shapiro has completed Sanditon in a vivid style recognizable to any Austen fan. Here is the story of Charlotte Heywood, who has recently arrived in the town of Sanditon to enjoy the benefits of the ocean air. At first, Charlotte finds amusement enough standing at her ample Venetian window looking over its placid seafront and salubrious ocean, wind-blown linens, and sparkling sea. But there is much more to this promising little coastal resort. Before long, Charlotte discovers that scandals abound. To the delight of her eccentric host Mr. Parker, she becomes captivated by the romance of the seaside lifestyle. But is the town of Sanditon truly the haven that Mr. Parker likes to think it is, and will Charlotte Parker find happiness here?
Ulysses Press, Berkeley, CA (2009)
Trade Paperback (236) pages
The Brothers, by Jane Austen and Another Lady (Helen Baker)
Miss Austen wrote ten chapters of a novel she called The Brothers before illness stilled her pen forever. Now, her entire draft has been incorporated into the complete story. It is hoped that the resulting romance may satisfy her myriad admirers who have long regretted that such vivid characters were left in suspense.
Trade paperback (272) pages
Some say that Andy Dalziel wasn’t ready for God, others that God wasn’t ready for Dalziel. Either way, despite his recent proximity to a terrorist blast in Death Comes for the Fat Man, the Superintendent remains firmly of this world. And, while Death may be the cure for all diseases, Dalziel is happy to settle for a few weeks’ care under a tender nurse.
Convalescing in Sandytown, a quiet seaside resort devoted to healing, Dalziel befriends Charlotte Heywood, a fellow newcomer, and psychologist, who is researching the benefits of alternative therapy. With much in common, the two soon find themselves in partnership when trouble comes to town.
Sandytown’s principal landowners have grandiose plans for the resort–none of which they can agree on. One of them has to go, and when one of them does, in spectacularly gruesome fashion, DCI Peter Pascoe is called in to investigate–with Dalziel and Charlotte providing unwelcome support. But Pascoe finds dark forces at work in a place where medicine and holistic remedies are no match for the oldest cure of all. Aka The Price of Butchers Meat (UK edition)
Harper Collins, New York (2008)
Trade paperback (400) pages
Jane Austen’s Charlotte: Her Fragment of a Last Novel, Completed, by Julia Barrett
Julia Barrett, author of the Austen continuations The Third Sister and Presumption, has emerged with a literary treasure, holding true to the characters and theme designed by Ms. Austen. Set in the developing seaside town of Sanditon, it portrays a young woman from the countryside who is exposed to the sophistication and cynicism of resort life. Her name is Charlotte. With disarming charm and wit, she observes for us the array of quirky characters who reside in the booming resort-to-be.
Freshly removed from her familiar, provincial environment and exposed to England at the cusp of the nineteenth century, Charlotte encounters the wondrous Parker family, a genteel clan of dreamers and idlers. Others include the feuding Denham siblings; the ailing, yet unconscionably busy Parker sisters; and the wryly observant Emmeline Turner, a lady of literary distinction, who is astonished to find herself solicited there by those who regard her as a representative of the “better circle of society.”
The innocent but keen-witted Charlotte quickly finds herself rather deeply involved in this uproarious little town. She can’t help but get swept up in the antics of the Parkers and Denham’s, even while she is vexed and perplexed by the droll young Sidney Parker. But even the best efforts of this charming young lady may not be enough to save the budding resort town.
Originally named The Brothers by Austen and dubbed Sanditon by her family, this “new” novel promises to bring to life another Austen heroine worthy of keeping company with the likes of Elizabeth, Emma, and Anne.
M. Evans & Co, New York (2000)
Trade paperback (300) pages
Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Last Novel Completed, by Jane Austen and Another Lady (Marie Dobbs aka Anne Telscombe)
Sanditon – an eleven-chapter fragment left at Jane Austen’s death completed with seamless artistry by an Austen aficionado and novelist – is a delightful addition to Austen’s beloved books about England’s upper-crust world and the deception, snobbery, and unexpected romances that animate it.
When Charlotte Heywood accepts an invitation to visit the newly fashionable seaside resort of Sanditon, she is introduced to a full range of polite society, from the reigning local dowager Lady Denham to her impoverished ward Clara, and from the handsome, feckless Sidney Parker to the amusing, if hypochondriacal, sisters.
A heroine whose clearly-sighted common sense in often at war with romance, Charlotte cannot help observing around her both folly and passion in many guises. But can the levelheaded Charlotte herself resist the attractions of the heart?
Scribner, New York (Simon & Schuster) (1998)
Trade paperback (320) pages
Not to add undue influence over which continuation you read, but I shall be reading and reviewing Sanditon, by Jane Austen and Another Lady next week. I hope others who participated in this week’s group read of Sanditon will join me. If you do not have a copy on hand you can read the transcribed text at the University of Virginia Library website.