Monday, 16 September 2019

The Missing Page

I've been watching, and unexpectedly enjoying, Sanditon, ITV's adaptation of Jane Austen's final and unfinished novel about a town on the south coast of England being transformed into a Regency seaside resort, which she was writing until shortly before her untimely death at the age of 41 in 1817.

Although sequels are almost always inferior to the original classics whose success they seek to cash in on (Lewis after Inspector Morse, the awful Blues Brother 2000), finishing uncompleted novels either on the page or screen tends to work better (I'm also a fan of prequels which establish the background and motivations of well-known characters - as Endeavour does with Inspector Morse, or, in one of my favourite novels, that of Jane Eyre's Mr. Rochester in Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea).

The text of Sanditon is only about sixty pages long, so most of the TV series is the work of screenwriter Andrew Davies who, rather than messing around too much with the plot and characters, has managed to extend some of the novel's themes - slavery, racism, financial speculation - that are only hinted at by Austen.

The pre-eminent example of an unfinished work of literature is of course Lady Don't Fall Backwards by Darcy Sarto, as brought to life by East Cheam's inimitable man of letters Anthony Aloysius Hancock.

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