Tuesday, January 14, 2014

REVIEW: The Third Sister by Julia Barrett

My rating:

No Top Ten Tuesday this week. Instead here are thoughts on some Jane Austen Fan Fiction.

Format: Real Live Book

Narrated By: NA

Original Publication Year: 1996

Genre(s): Historical Fiction,

Series: NA

Awards: None

Suggested Subtitle: How Margaret Dashwood overcomes her childhood trauma and finds an Austen ending.

I am a huge Jane Austen lover and thankfully not too much of a purist to not, from time to time, enjoy some fan fiction. They come in many shapes: retellings from different perspectives, straight continuations focused on the same characters, continuations focused on other characters, Jane Austen as a Regency era sleuth; there is something for everyone. I haven't read a ton but I enjoyed the Fitzwilliam Darcy series by which re-tells P&P from Darcy's perspective and I'm a long time fan of the Jane Austen Mystery series by .

The Third Sister is the story of Margaret Dashwood from my favorite Austen book Sense and Sensibility. In Austen's novel Margaret is young, perhaps 12 or 13, and floats on the very periphery of the story. In fact some of the TV/movie adaptations of the book drop Margaret all together. At the very beginning Barrett includes a quote from Sense and Sensibility that implies that Austen didn't have much faith in Margaret amounting to much. Barrett attempts to revive her reputation and catches up with the Dashwoods about 5 years on from the end of Sense and Sensibility.

Barrett has decided that Margaret's character will share a little bit from both of her elder sisters. She's quite headstrong and outdoorsy like Marianne but she was profoundly affected by Willoughby's betrayal of that sister and has resolved to be practical and not be taken in by any man with good looks and charm. So, when she meets just such a man who appears to be taken with her, she assumes he is not genuine or trustworthy and instead almost makes a disastrous marriage to a less charming man. It's "Austen" so you can imagine how it ends. Barrett also gives the reader a peek into Elinor and Marianne's married lives and tries to provide Marianne with the happy ending she doesn't entirely get at the end of S&S.

Does it work? I was pretty pleased and enjoyed it. Like Austen, it is not action packed, focused mostly on the everyday comings and goings of Regency era society. We spend perhaps a bit too much time with the despicable Ferrars. The "lesson" for Margaret is perhaps a little too neat and the "villain" seemed closely modeled on another of Austen's characters. The prose, though I'm no expert, seemed perhaps a little forced but as I mentioned I'm not a purist and I had no problem looking past these imperfect imitations to get caught up in the story. I truly enjoyed Margaret as a character and I was interested to see how Marianne was doing married to the Colonel.

Final Verdict: I did not feel the sparkle that I do when reading an Austen novel but this was an enjoyable visit with some of my favorite characters.

If you are an Austen lover, have you found any "fan fiction"that you felt was just right?
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