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The pseudonymous author of two Jane Austen sequels (The Third Sister, 1996, etc.) here takes up Austen’s unfinished

manuscript satirizing land speculators and fashionable seaside towns, completing it with period style and dash, though plot

developments are less satisfying

Austen began The Brothers (better known as Sanditon, the name her survivors gave it) shortly before she died in 1817. The

12 chapters she wrote promise a spirited satire of the burgeoning popularity of seaside resorts, whose air and water were thought

to have healing powers, and Barrett picks up where Austen left off. Several themes have contemporary resonance, particularly

the characters” preoccupation with alternative medicine and the desire of property developers Mr. Parker and Lady Debenham

to profit from this fashion. These two, who have invested money in building houses to rent, hope that Sanditon will be the next

Brighton. The folly of their enterprise is seen mostly through the eyes of Charlotte Heywood, a young woman staying with the

Parkers in their new seaside villa, Trafalgar House. Charlotte is amused by romantic, verse-quoting Sir Edward, Lady

Debenham’s nephew and heir, but Edward himself is more taken with Clara, the Lady’s penniless prot‚g‚e. As the season opens,

a gratifying number of wealthy visitors arrive, as do Mr. Parker’s hypochondriacal sisters and youngest brother, who soon find

their health, happiness, and vocation in Sanditon. Also in attendance is Sidney, another Parker brother, who shares Charlotte’s sardonic understanding of others” follies. Mutual attraction ensues as the plot labors to thicken. The resort still has too many

vacant accommodations, so Sir Edward goes to London, hoping to make money by persuading a horse-racing and gambling

establishment to move to Sanditon. It does, but the ensuing scandal soon empties the town. Only love triumphs.

All those nice Regency details are here, but the people are sketchy creatures compelled to rush through a creaky plot. Even

Austen’s wit seems less sparkling and more forced in so trite a setting.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-87131-908-X
Page count: 240pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2000


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