What is ‘Sanditon’?

Sanditon is a costume drama on ITV that has divided the crowd. It is not the best historical drama I’ve seen this year (so far I’d give that award to Gentleman Jack) but it’s not the worst. (Let’s not go there, please!)

What’s Sanditon got to do with Jane Austen?

The writers based the drama on a novel Jane was working on when she died. I believe the first 20 minutes of the drama used up all the material she wrote. However, I expect that first chapter set the scene and created the main characters. The TV writers have probably built on Jane’s work. However, many people think it is too different from her other works. We tend to like what we know.They say it is rougher and rowdier than the genteel stories we associate with Austen.

Why is Sanditon different?

Is it just the way they adapted Jane’s draft novel for TV? That’s possible, but I want to give credit to the screenwriters and to Jane herself. Sanditon is about a man who wants to develop a fictional seaside town as a resort. He is an entrepreneur, not one of the traditional landed gentry. The main young woman loves the glimpse of the future and wants to help the man with the plan. Yes, a career woman! Of course you will find a lot of the usual elements of Austen there too: ambition, romance, duplicity…

Is Sanditon too modern?

The sort of changes in society the drama shows did take place around the end of Jane Austen’s life. It is to her credit that she chose to write about the changes in the World, and not stick to the old formula, where wealth meant land and its acquisition came through inheritance or marriage. Jane might have liked the changes. All her heroines tried to break out of the old order. She herself was unusual in making a living from her writing and not looking for a rich husband to support her. She was one of the heralds of things to come. And the music and dances are livelier than the sedate balls of Pride and Prejudice. They reflect the fashions of the post-Napoleonic era.

Sanditon is an adaptation.

Readers usually find TV and film adaptations of their favourite books disappointing, often with good reason. I know I do. However, we need to recognise that it is a different medium. You always lose something. That’s a good reason for reading. You get a lot more out of a book. But there are some positives about TV: the pace, immediacy, and the visual impact. I watch TV as much as I read. Let’s enjoy both.

I hope someone will make a TV version of Highwaypersons. I’ll try not to get too upset at the inevitable changes. Not read it yet? Here are links to Book I and Book II. I’m still working on Book III.

Highwaypersons Book I, Debts and Duties

Highwaypersons Book II The King’s Justice

Coming soon – Highwaypersons Book III Stallion Man