Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters (and Jane Austen) is a quirky and absurd rewrite of Austen's classic Sense and Sensibility. This novel is set in an alternate history - a mysterious and terrible event known as The Alteration has occurred. No one knows how or why The Alteration happened, but the result has made everyone's existence one of survival against marine and freshwater creatures. Austen's beloved characters go about the events laid out in the original work, but with the added mayhem of creature attacks!

I have to admit, I really did not expect to like this quite as well as I did. I expected to be amused, but I also thought I would probably turn up my nose at some parts, because Sense and Sensibility is one of my favourite novels. Those turned-up-nose parts did pop up here and there, during some questionable passages, such as Marianne picking her teeth with a fishbone and Elinor being so disgusted with the tentacled appearance of Colonel Brandon - I think Elinor would be a little more just in the beginning, even in her private thoughts.

However, the way Winters wove his own story in with Austen's original was fun (Edward wishes to be a lighthouse-keeper, not a clergyman; London is the underwater domed city Sub-Marine Station Beta; Mrs Jennings and her daughters were kidnapped natives of a remote island; Willoughby hunts treasure rather than fowl; etc.), and he threw in some unexpected twists as well. The added mysteries were the main points which kept me actively interested in reading, since I think I would have skimmed a lot more if it were just a straight re-telling. One of these mysteries involves Elinor and Marianne's youngest sister, Margaret; this is something I thought added a great deal, since even though we still don't see much of Margaret in the narrative, I was glad to see such a fun side character get a bit of a larger role in the story. There's also a little map at the front of the book!

The descriptions of creature attacks tend to be quite...er...descriptive, and there are quite a few scenes which turn our romantic heroes and heroines into action heroes and heroines - I would not have expected Mrs Dashwood to be such an asset in a fight against a sea monster! Absurd though it may be, the beginning of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters definitely hit the ground running, whereas the original (as much as I love it) I admit starts off a little on the slow side for me.

I definitely understand why lovers of classic literature would be hestiant to read these oddball re-writes, but I'm glad I picked this one up to try! It was silly and fun, and even though I did roll my eyes or raise an eyebrow at some parts, I laughed out loud at others and was intrigued by the mysterious plot-line involving Margaret and the other involving Elinor and the five-pointed star. If you really aren't sure about whether or not you want to try this, I'd really recommend at least borrowing it from a friend or from a library.



Quirk Books

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  1. This sounds funny and cute. I like how the author seems to stay true to the book but throw in the sea monsters as well. And the descriptive creature attacks sounds very intriguing, if perhaps disturbing or gross.

  2. I think these are hilarious ideas, glad to hear the execution matches the premise.

    BTW, I was talking about the Halfprice warehouse sale in a previous comment and I just saw this float across my facebook - seems relevant to you. http://hpb.com/880.html

  3. Great review!
    I myself love most mash-ups I've read better than the original books. But I'll confess I love zombies, sea monsters and stuff like that.

  4. I'm one of the readers that has been unsure about these wacky rewrites - I've wondered what the point is if you already like the story the way it is. But you've made this sound fun, so perhaps I will give it a try.