This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Book Review: Willoughby's Return

Willoughby's Return, Jane Odiwe
3 roses

I have never read a sequel to Sense and Sensibility, my favorite of Jane Austen's works, or to any Austen work for that matter. I have been a bit leery of the current trend of writing sequels to her her works but I took a chance on this one and its not bad as far as sequels go.

The story focuses on Marianne Brandon and her younger sister, Margaret, and takes place about 3 years after the events in Sense and Sensibility. In that short amount of time you know some feelings have not healed. Marianne is happy in her marriage but is resentful towards the time Colonel Brandon spends with his ward and her little family; she really doesn't like the fact that he never speaks to her about it (while he of course doesn't say anything because he knows it upsets her). She still thinks about Willoughby occasionally but feels she's put all that behind her. Marianne then decides to set her sister Margaret up with the Colonel's nephew, Henry, and of course, the two young people hit it off at once. At this point, Willoughby returns to their lives because he just happens to be doing business with Henry. His return couldn't have come at a worse time for Marianne; her husband is conveniently away tending to his ward and her ailing daughter and Willoughby makes it clear he's still in love with her and wants to win her back. You then get the usual misunderstandings that threaten everyone's happiness: Henry appears to drop Margaret for a childhood friend, giving in to his mother's wishes; Marianne thinks that the Colonel is happier with his other "family;" family acquaintances fill their heads with wrong information, etc. Of course, everyone ends up happy at the end and with the person they should be with - but we wouldn't want it otherwise, right?

This was a good sequel though you could tell it wasn't written at the same time as the original. There were just too many things that were discussed or mentioned that Austen just would not have included (you just would not see Austen mentioning in her writing that Marianne is eager to get to the bedroom with her husband or writing about some of Marianne's private encounters with Willoughby) because it just was not proper to mention such things in the period she was writing. It had an Austen-ish feel to it but it just did not have the formal, strict feel to the writing that you find in Austen's work. Of course, it is going to be hard to get that when you're not living it. The story lines were a bit predictable, especially Margaret's. Everything that happened to her seemed like a combination of what happened to her two older sisters in the original. Marianne's story was a little less predictable, though once she makes her decision towards the end of the story the rest plays out as I thought it would. The story is well written, especially in describing Marianne's feelings; there certainly were times when I could almost feel how confused and frustrated she was. The dialogue seems appropriate for the time period (with those few exceptions I mentioned above). Several of the characters from the original show up in this sequel - Mrs. Jennings, Lucy Ferrars, John Middleton - and they all behave as you would expect (though I found Lucy's character extremely irritating here). One point that surprised me was how little we see of Elinor in the story, especially considering how close the sisters were in the original. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of her and Edward, but then this was a story about Marianne's temptations.

Overall this was not bad and was a fast, easy read. I have always wanted to see what might have happened after Sense and Sensibility ended and this is not a bad attempt at continuing the story. If you're an Austen fan and you've always wanted to see more of Marianne and Willoughby, take a shot with this one.

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