Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jane Austen for the Masses

Nothing offended me more than in first year university English when I had to listen to a classroom full of people gripe and moan about Jane Austen, and how they thought Pride and Prejudice  was like a soap opera. I sat there and blew steam out of my ears and looked forward to the day when I could discuss the book with people who actually understood how brilliant it was that you could compare her book, written between 1797 and 1813, with a modern soap opera.

But for Christmas this year, my good friend Mel gave me Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and I've got to say, I think Quirk Publishing might have just found the way to make this book fun even for the nay-sayers!

They started with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (which I'm going to have to pick up now, since pride was always my fave anyhow), and then moved on to Sense And Sensibility.

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, is a great parody all in that dry humor vein which is so classically Austen. To begin with the book seems nearly identical to the original except for the comments thrown in to set up the sea monster theme; lots of them very comical. For instance Willoughby is a treasure hunter, and wears a wet suit for the entire book no matter what he's doing
"Marianne began now to perceive that the desperation which had seized her at sixteen and a half, of ever seeing a man who could satisfy her ideas of perfection, had been rash and unjustifiable. Willoughby was all that her fancy had delineated in that unhappy hour, and in every brighter period. He was the sun shining on smooth rocks; he was a clear blue sky after monsoon season's end; he was perfection in a wet suit."

As the story moves on there are progressively more and more fun changes, the fashionable hub of society is Sub-Marine Station Beta an under-the-sea city, instead of London. There are Pirates, and Sea witches, one of which has cursed Colonel Brandon to have a Squid face.
"Otherwise, he was very pleasant. His appearance, besides the twitching tentacles that overhung his chin, was not unpleasing, despite being an absolute old bachelor; for he was the wrong side of five and thirty."
And in almost every emotional scene there is an attack by some type of sea monster happening at the same moment. Picture Lucy unburdening herself to Elinor of her secret engagement to Edward while Elinor fights off a two headed Sea Serpent.

Finally, without giving away the big ending, i have to say there is a truly wonderful parody at the end of this book of the usual readers Discussion guide. "10. Is Monsieur Pierre a symbol for something? Name three other well-known works of Western Literature that feature orangutan valets. Are those characters also slain by pirates?"

This book had me giggling on and off for days, not to mention reading bits out for people whenever they'd listen. I highly recommend it for both Jane Austen fans and those who thought she was a bore in first year university.

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters
Published by Quirk Books, September 2009


  1. Great post. I had a few giggles. I'm totally going to have to get myself a copy of this one for my own library. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Also you can always discus the brilliance of Austen with me :). The woman was way a head of her time!

  2. yah um, from now on i'm referring to people as being on the wrong side of five and thirty. Until i am of course, then it'll have to be five and forty, or five and twenty!

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  4. yes the wrong side of five and thirty nearly killed me. five and thirty is soooo old. if that is true gawd help us ;). It sometimes feels like we're hurdling straight for it. scary!

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