Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

sense and sensibility trollopeWhy???

Warning! This review may involve wailing and gnashing of teeth, not to mention cursing…of both kinds. Persons of a sensitive disposition may wish to look away now. And on the assumption that no-one will be interested in this who doesn’t know the original, there are some mild spoilers…

😡

The Austen Project is a strange little idea to rewrite all the Austen novels for a modern age. Why? It certainly can’t be because the originals are unreadable – I’d imagine they are more popular today than they have ever been. One can only assume they see it as a money-spinner. I’m delighted to say I got this book free – and even then it was too expensive.

My recent review of the real Sense and Sensibility highlighted that I think it deserves its place as a classic because of the light it casts on the restricted lives and opportunities of the sons and daughters of the ‘gentry’ in Jane Austen’s time. This fake S&S concentrates on the same class, but is set in the present day. Unfortunately, society has changed so much that the premise doesn’t work. In order to make the story fit into today’s England – where opportunity for the middle-classes is almost infinite, where women are freer and more equal than they have ever been and where the norm is for people without money to do that revolutionary thing and get a job – Trollope has decided to make most of the characters completely feckless and thus entirely unsympathetic.

He gave an almost imperceptible smirk. ‘The obigations of the heir…’
‘Oh my God,’ Marianne exclaimed. ‘Are you the heir to Allenham?’
He nodded.
‘So fortunate,’ Belle said dazedly.
Marianne’s eyes were shining.
‘So romantic,’ she said.

The story begins with the Dashwood family losing their home at Norland. Not because it’s entailed – oh, no! Because Mr Dashwood never bothered to marry Mrs Dashwood (Belle, heaven help us!) and so his great-uncle left the house to his legitimate nephew rather than his illegitimate nieces. Already I’m wondering what society this reflects? Certainly not the one I live in, which stopped giving a…fig…about legitimacy back sometime in the seventies and where even the crown is now allowed to pass down the female line. To make it work, Trollope has had to make it overly complex and unbelievable…and we’re only at Chapter 1.

Poverty - Trollope-style
Poverty – Trollope-style

So the poor Dashwoods, with only £200,000 and a modern cottage given to them by other rich relatives, have to face up to living within straitened means. Why? Has the concept of going to work never occurred to any of them? Poor Elinor has to give up Uni. Why? Can’t she get a student loan and live in a bedsit like everyone else? To be fair, she does get her rich relatives to pull strings to get her a job. But the rest whine endlessly about lack of money making me want to a) hit them collectively over the head with a brick and b) explain that living in a four-bedroom cottage, running a car and popping up to London every weekend to go to parties isn’t really poverty!

Then we have Marianne (M!) – in this version a hysterical maniac, rather than the overly emotional but sweet and loving girl of the original. Suffering from constant asthma attacks (presumably because when we get a cold these days, we just take paracetemol and get on with it), she spends her time wheezing, gasping, sobbing, throwing tantrums and being revoltingly rude to everyone, and yet being so lovely throughout that no man can withstand her (invisible) charm. To explain this strange anomaly, Trollope tells us approximately 15,000 times that M is stunningly gorgeous, even whilst receiving Intensive Care. I shall brush quietly past the sex episode…

Joanna Trollope
Joanna Trollope

Shall I tell you about Wills(!)? Of course, single motherhood tends not to lead to death these days, so how does Ms Trollope resolve this conundrum and ensure that we understand that he’s a bad lot? Well, by making Wills, (who’s not just the ‘hottest boy in the county’, by the way, but a complete ‘shagbandit’ – charming) into a drug-pusher! Yes, little Eliza is a junkie…

Pah! I can’t bear to talk about this monstrosity any longer. I will leave you to imagine whingy Ellie, pathetic Ed, and Mags, the nightmare teenager with an iThing habit. I will ignore the fact that all the married women stay at home to look after their children. I will pretend I didn’t notice that we now have a Wills, a Harry and – yep, that’s right – the Middletons. I won’t even mention the youtube ‘trolling’ incident…and I refuse to think about the gay party-planner, Robert Ferrars, and his marriage of convenience…

‘One hundred parties in the last year!’ Mrs Jennings said. ‘Incredible. That’s one party every three nights that wouldn’t have happened without him!’
‘Too silly,’ Lucy said, looking straight at Elinor. ‘Brainless. My poor Ed must be cringing.’
‘Amaze,’ Nancy said from the sofa. ‘Amazeballs.’
Elinor took a step back.
‘Well, I suppose it’s good to be good at something.’

A fake book that tells us nothing authentic about today’s society – might work as a fluffy romance (except aren’t you supposed to like the heroines in them?) but doesn’t work as a serious novel, isn’t funny enough to be a comedy and is an insult rather than an homage to a great classic. Read at your peril…

NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

68 thoughts on “Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

  1. FictionFan – So….how do you really feel about this novel? It’s all right; you can feel free to be honest 😉 . Seriously though, I have to wonder why those stories would be re-written in that way, too. I do appreciate your letting us know about this; something I can now deliberately not put on my TBR…

  2. You’re certainly not holding back, are you? I laughed out loud, although I have to admit I feel a bit sorry for Joanne Trollope: it was like flogging a dead horse from the outset. Like you and Margot, I wonder what purpose these rewritings and resetting in the modern day serve. I even prefer the Famous Five in their original Enid Blyton package rather than updated for today. After all, they all provide an insight into other times, minds and culture, which is (also) what diversity is all about.
    So what other ‘delights’ are publishers reserving for us in the same fashion?

    • Haha! Oh, I thought I’d been rather tactful too! 😉

      I never understand why they do these things. Like you, I even hate when they mess with Blyton – changing ten shillings to 50p etc. But at least they never describe George as ‘the hottest tomboy in the county’…

  3. 😆 Haha! Beautifully done! I love the line that even free was too expensive. And the part about the bricks on the head–priceless! 😀

    It’s a dadblame shame that they feel a need to rewrite classics. I suppose ideas are scarce. Ride on someone else’s fame.

    An awesome ripping review. Loved the smiley at the top…but…are you hating a book? Was it…lame?

    • Thank you – glad you enjoyed it! Almost makes the pain of reading the book worthwhile… 😉

      It’s beyond my understanding – but no doubt it will sell zillions.

      As a very wise old man once said, I only hate the hateful books! Lame AND dull to the point of tears!!

      • Good, good. Must read that other one, then.

        Oh, it probably won’t. (I think P&P zombies did well. Did you know in the book Lizio wields a katana and almost beheads Darby? 😯 )

        Who’s the wise man? Never thought I’d hear you say that!

        • What other one?

          😯 That almost makes P&P Zombies sound good…almost… Was the character of Lizio based on the Professor, by any chance?

          So modest! Why not? I don’t love all books, you know – only the good ones…

          • The Abbey one?

            I hope not! The professor was quite shocked when he read it. You should read the synopsis on Wikipedia. I’m sure you’d get more laughs than I did!

            The professor? I didn’t say that! Did I? Oh goodness. Well because you love books so much. (I’ve finally got my other shelves in order. More books on those. I think I might post a few photos of them next Wednesday.)

            • The truly scary thing is that I know that I won’t be able to resist reading it. (Mind you, I gave Val McDermid one star for her last book, anyway, and it wasn’t an Austen rip-off…)

              😆 It sounds both wonderful and terrible at the same time. I thought you were joking about the katana, but no! You do realise that I now have the image of you as a Darby-esque ‘haughty monster-hunter’?

              Oh yes, you did!

              (Oooh, good! I shall look forward to that! It’s so good to know you didn’t burn them all… 😉 )

            • I can’t wait. It will be awesome. The professor will love it. 😀

              Don’t know why you didn’t believe the professor, dadblameit. I wouldn’t lie, you know!!!

              You do? Well, try and forget it.

              I don’t recall. I think you’re telling tales.

              (Oh no, it’s a rather big collection.)

            • Perhaps the Professor should read it… even I would enjoy that ripio!

              I apologise – I shall believe every word you say in future…well, nearly every word (but I still recall the Ratherquite Incident – not to mention the dadblamed slander you’re spreading on Twitter!!)

              Can’t. Or rather, shan’t.

              At your agelessness, it’s hardly surprising your memory fails on occasion, poor Prof.

              Cor! Can’t wait! I will be scrutinising carefully for the Collected Works of Austen…

            • But it might depress the professor…

              I was quite honest about Mr. R. I said he was the Darby of the PL–and you know something, Lizio would have agreed with me! The professor doesn’t slander. He just pretends.

              Wickedness.

              I think you may be right. Thought I’m not sure you can be trusted.

              The professor thinks you may be surprised. Of course, though, I could change my mind and not do it after all.

            • But you couldn’t hate it more than the real thing – and think of the fun you could have…

              I can imagine no circumstances where Lizio would agree with the Professor, and certainly not about that creature. And Lizio would have been shocked by your wicked ‘pretending’…

              I’m always right!

              Please don’t change your mind! But I might not be as surprised as you think I might be – I’ve always assumed that the Professor has read much more widely than he likes to let on…quite probably more widely amongst the classics and American literature than FF…

            • Oh, we’d agree all the time, I think. I might have had to slap her into line a few times, though.

              And the professor is righter.

              The “other” side might actually like books.

            • Yes, I do. I’m surprised you know about that. The vexing back broke off a few weeks ago. But I do kind of like it like this.

              If the professor said “ma’am” he might feel inferior.

  4. Great review and very entertaining. It doesn’t surprise that this book is so bad. Hopefully this reveiw will be a warning to all Janeites not to buy this book. I have already posted this review on the Jane Austen Book Club Facebook page. I hope you don’t mind my doing that.

    • Thanks – glad you enjoyed it! And no, I don’t mind at all – thanks for spreading the word. I’m not much of a Facebooker but I’ll pop over to take a look at that page…

      I knew as soon as I accepted it from Vine that it was a huge mistake, but somehow i just couldn’t resist. I so hope I can resist all the other ones though…

  5. I can’t ‘like’ your post dear friend, only because it seems to give publicity to what I’m sure is a very very very bad, worthless travesty of a book. Even thinking about the trashy mayhem Ms Trollope attempts to drop in that perfectly clever and witty Ms Austen’s front garden makes me gnash my teeth and turn into an ogre who would willingly crunch painfully on Ms Trollope’s typing fingers to prevent her embarking or even thinking of embarking on such a travesty again. And me a vegetarian too!

    Of course (tries not to say I told you so!’ instead settles for the interrogative: ‘Had You Taken Full Leave Of Your Powerful Senses, Woman?’ (you, not Ms Trollope who clearly never had sense in the first place if she could not LEAVE WELL ALONE and realise there lay, in the presence of Ms Austen, a far far finer talent than she could even hint at). What possessed YOU?? Were you under the influence of too many boxes of fine chocos when the Vine feeding frenzy began? Were you feverish, with scarletina?

    I shan’t be posting (unlike a previous commenter) your post anywhere. I have applied for a position as bookburner (circa Fahrenheit 451) Not ALL books, obviously, just those that sully the restful repose of the thoughtful and witty Ms Austen. I HATE to think of her getting dizzy, turning and turning restlessly under the sod at the thought of how her deal girls, and even that irresponsible Willoughby, have been maligned.
    Now………….where are the matches and the petrol can……………

    • Hehe! Funnily enough, I commented to Paula at findagirlwhoreads that this book made me think more kindly of book-burning! I have no idea what I was thinking…it’s like driving past a car-crash – you know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help yourself. I think the real low point though was the description of Wills as a ‘shagbandit’ – I ask you!! Oddly, though, it’s garnering positive reviews on Az…

      • Oh dear – you have now, by the simple use of a phrase turned me into a harpy, with a strong desire to send disgusted of literary Cheltenham letters to that Trollope. How her worthy Victorian ancestor must be wishing he had used a prophylactic when her line was begot!

        • Indeed! I tried to make allowances for her for years on the grounds of her illustrious ancestry, but really she lives in The Land that Time Forgot. Has she ever visited the real world, much less lived in it? Cliche, cliche, cliche!!!

          Grrr…if I don’t stop grinding my teeth soon, I may have to send her my dental bill…

      • *also whispering* I know about this terrible fascination. I’ve experienced it myself. Not with this book, but with others (it’s kind of how I read Harlequin Romance novels actually…)

  6. Don’t hold back, tell us what you really think. And have you heard the latest? Alexander McCall Smith has been roped in – to “do” “Emma””, I think, but the red mist descended, so I’m not 100% sure.
    Guess what I won’t be reading next?
    Great review – better than the well-named Trollope’s effusion.

  7. Thank you SO MUCH for reading this book so I don’t have to. I completely understand the fascination… when you first mentioned it being on TBR list I added it to mine. I knew it was a bad idea and yet… you always hope that it’s going to be, well, at least not a disaster. It’s like going to see a movie of a book you love. Deep down, you KNOW that it will never be right, and yet you can’t resist going, if for no other reason than to pick it apart!

    Ah well, I will steer clear of this one! Sounds like you’d better read a Wodehouse next to remind you that not all is lost. 😀

    • Haha! My…er…pleasure! You’re right about the movie thing – and it’s also that you know it’s going to be talked about, so you feel you have to know what it’s like for yourself – however painful!

      Great idea! (I just hope the Faulks Wodehouse is better…gulp!)

  8. There ought to be a law……, but at least Terror Tuesday is taken care of.
    And as for destroying Austen, the only reputations which will suffer are theirs.

  9. Oh. My. Gods. BLASPHEMY! Just reading the tiny excerpts you’ve included makes me cringe. Could Trollope (tell me I’m not the only one who giggled at her name) have written anything less like the original? This is indeed a ripping review – for a book that deserves it.

  10. I think I’m actually relieved that this was as bad as you say it was. When I first heard about this project I simply couldn’t see the point. If authors have run out of things to write about then give up for a bit until the well-spring starts to run again. What is the point of ‘stealing’ someone else’s idea. if you did this in academia it would be called plagiarism and you wold be ostracised for the rest of your life. It gives me a rather twisted pleasure then to hear just how pointless the whole exercise has clearly been.

    • You’re right – it is plagiarism. I hadn’t thought of it in quite those terms, but that’s exactly what it is. I remember during my brief Uni career, one student being very annoyed because they had copied another student’s essay from the previous year word for word, and ended up with 10% less than the first person got! Ms Trollope gets a straight fail grade… 😉

  11. I knew I was going to love your review of this book and I do! It made me laugh and confirmed that I was right to pass over this offering on Vine! This is so clearly a book of its time why would anyone think it was a good idea to modernise it!

  12. Thank you so much for this review. It was perfect! I knew nothing of this project and was quite excited to find a version of a favourite classic rewritten by one of my favourite authors in my local library. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. What a bunch of unlikable characters. I kept wanting to yell at them ‘get a job’. I won’t even go into the distinct lack of the female characters being able to do anything without a man. What the??? Not one of the characters had any redeeming features. I have just finished reading it and feel I wasted a good few hours of my life. Your review sums up perfectly everything I thought of the book. I certainly won’t be looking out for any of the other ‘Austen project’ books. Definitely 0 stars from this reader!

    • Thank you – glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 I read the first three of the Austen Project books -this one, which you know what I thought of (!), Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid, which was surprisingly quite fun, and Emma by Alexander McCall Smith, which was even worse than this one – seriously! So at that point I abandoned the rest. The only good thing about it was that it persuaded me to re-read the originals – I’ve only got Mansfield Park left to go now… 😀

      Thanks for popping in and commenting!

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