From the desk of Sophia Rose:
At the end of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility after the last vestiges of the book’s main conflicts, the reader is met with a less than meticulous summation that closes out the book. For those who fell in love with the Dashwood family and their friends—even those who are not their friends—there is a feeling of dissatisfaction about the wrap-up. The Year In Between, by Christina Morland fills in that gap by continuing the story before Austen jumps forward to the marriage of Marianne and Col. Brandon, offering an in-depth and layered exploration of that time. We shall see if it quells our curiosity.
The story opens at the time of Elinor Dashwood’s marriage to Edward Ferrars and their preparations to leave Barton Cottage for Delaford. Marianne Dashwood’s health is restored, though she still struggles with the vestiges of a heartbroken by John Willoughby. She is determined to do better, but the loss of her capable sister leaves her for the first time in the role of eldest daughter of the Dashwood house and the responsibilities that come with it. Her personal observations are shared with her journal as are her connection with poetry, nature, and music. She is eager to visit her sister and new brother at Delaford, but is oddly reluctant and even irritated to encounter Delaford’s master, Colonel Brandon.
The Colonel has been generous and good to her and her family, but she is bewildered why he turns into a poker when it comes to her. In the past, she wronged him greatly with her silly and cruel jokes at his expense and her rudeness while she pursued folly with Willoughby, but now the taciturn man fascinates her—even when she resists being fascinated. Who is the man? His character is far from open though his actions show him to be honorable and noble and having sensibilities toward music and nature that match her own. Marianne is determined to get under the man’s skin yet doesn’t want to closely analyze why.
Meanwhile, Elinor is settling into married life at the vicarage and living in the village of Delaford. Love is strong and so much more than she could ever imagine. Her usual rationality and steadiness go out the window when she faces strained finances, a haughty and hurtful family of in-laws, the possibility of being with child, stirrings up in the village when the Colonel’s ward and her illegitimate son move into one of the cottages, and a husband who is struggling to not give into his fears about her health or his feelings of inadequacy. Elinor must adjust and somehow find a way through it while an interesting situation between her sister and the Colonel develops. When she begins to understand how deeply wounded and insecure Edward remains from his family’s treatment of him, she realizes being his helpmeet is complicated and full of pitfalls that require all her love and wisdom to fathom how to respond and care for her fledgling marriage.
Over the course of a year the Dashwood sisters grow as women, as family, and in love facing the challenges life has thrown at them.
As this book is quite page-heavy, I chose to summarize a fraction of the plot and did not even introduce the large cast of players in the story. I feel that the reader should delight in the discovery of so many colorful and intriguing familiar faces from Austen’s tale, but especially the author’s own original characters that enrich the cast greatly.
I enjoyed how the sisters are at two different places in their lives. We get a slow-burn courtship of two damaged people who painfully find their way to an understanding and the life after the wedding, and the other pair learn what it means to be in love and married. The author showed the foibles as well as strengths, so I was delighted by both pairs.
The Year In Between is a fabulous homage to Austen’s original, seamlessly continuing the characters and developing the plot in an interesting direction. One of the blessings of a large page count is the ability to delve so deeply into characters particularly the two oldest Dashwood sisters and tease out all the nuances of their story. There are plenty of everyday moments scattered amongst the times of greater tension and conflict that advance the reader’s knowledge of the characters. In both Elinor and Marianne’s cases, their maturing as women is accented as they face the challenge of handling domestic matters and to facing private pain and grief. In addition to the character-driven aspects of the plot, there are also the developments of the romantic, familial, friends, and more.
Dominated by domesticity and relationships, I loved Morland’s distinct and well-developed characters who face challenges and grow stronger because of them. There were several moments when I burst out laughing, yet they are tempered with instances of sorrow too. At times I grew impatient with the pacing of the story because of the dense historical background and dialogue. In addition to the generous length of this novel, the author graciously offers an after note about research and some choices of minor liberties to further the story.
And so, I delved deeply into the world of Sense and Sensibility and was utterly enchanted by the time I spent with Marianne and Elinor. Those who have read or at least watched the movie adaptions of Austen’s tale will probably have the fullest appreciation for this story. The Year In Between is a sweet historical fiction/romance continuation that shines with gentle pace and heartwarming tone that I can recommend.
5 out of 5 Stars
- The Year in Between: A Sense and Sensibility Variation, by Christina Morland
- Independently Published (January 23, 2021)
- Trade paperback & eBook (715) Pages
- ISBN: 979-8711104391
- Genre: Austenesque, Regency Romance
We purchased a copy of this book for our own enjoyment. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Cover image courtesy of Christina Morland © 2021; text Sophia Rose © 2021, austenprose.com.