The English novelist Jane Austen died at the age of 41, leaving her last work, Sanditon, unfinished. More than 200 years have passed and this little known story by the author of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma, is now on the screens to transport us to a universe of standoffish ladies, elegant gentlemen, exquisite manners, perfect diction and disproportionate romanticism. The series will not disappoint the lovers of Austen’s universe, although they will probably miss the author’s trademark witty dialogues, which have been replaced by plots that are a little more daring than she might have penned.
But the essence of the story is the same as always. A heroine who comes across as a little naive but who has very clear ideas, and who will discover the world and love and will not be satisfied with the role that society has assigned her. By a random accident, the life of this girl, Charlotte, who lives with her family on a rural property, will take a radical turn when the Parker couple decides to welcome her and take her to spend the summer in Sanditon, a coastal resort town in the south of England.
There, Tom Parker plans to build a residential area for affluent families and turn the town into a fashionable summer destination. To do so, he needs the help of old Lady Denham, a bitter and unfriendly old woman who sees how her relatives are only interested in her naming them as her heirs. The Parkers also hope to make Sanditon fashionable thanks to the contacts of Tom’s younger brother, Sidney. This gentleman is a well-positioned but rather nasty man who clashes with Charlotte, who immediately takes a dislike to him. But as we know, when it comes to Austen, the main character’s initial feelings of rejection and suspicion quickly change, especially when the handsome Parker brother is described coming out of the water after a soak on a lonely beach.
The romantic tension between the two protagonists will go hand in hand with the problems that the Parkers will encounter in carrying out their project. It should be noted that the few chapters that Austen left written are aired in the first episode of the series, and this has allowed its creator, Andrew Davis, the freedom to introduce slightly more raunchy stories, with love affairs and betrayals, than Austen would ever have included. However, by keeping to the details of the setting – dresses, hairstyles, decoration... – Sanditon perfectly captures the world and spirit of the famous novelist.
It helps that Davis is an expert on her work and he brought us a televised version of Pride and Prejudice in 1995, which turned the now-famous Colin Firth into the iconic Mr. Darcy. Here he is replaced by actor Theo James – famous for the Divergent series – but his character, unlike Darcy, does not bathe in a lake but on the beach. Maybe every generation needs its own TV dose of Austen, and Sanditon is the one for now. Yet, it remains to be seen whether it will be successful enough to be granted a second season.