Friday, May 27, 2011

Willoughby’s Return Book Review

Author: Jane Odiwe. Release date: 2009. Publisher:  Sourcebooks Landmark. ISBN: 9781402222672.

Annotation:  Three years after her marriage to the Colonel, Marianne Brandon is happy in her life at Delaford Park. But when her first love, John Willoughby, returns to the neighborhood, will that happiness be enough to keep her from falling to the temptation of seeing her former flame?
Personal thoughts: I am a huge Jane Austen fan, and especially love the character of Willoughby from Sense and Sensibility (largely due to his portrayal by Greg Wise in the 1995 film version.) When I saw a novel that delved into what might have happened had Willoughby reentered the lives of the Dashwoods, I had to read it. Overall I enjoyed the novel, although the plot line with Marianne and Willoughby was the only one I found really interesting (there are also subplots about Margaret Dashwood and Colonel Brandon having a “love affair” with his ward, Willoughby’s ex, Eliza.) Despite  the mediocrity of these subplots, I still recommend this title for Jane Austen fans everywhere.
Plot summary: This sequel to Jane Austen’s classic novel Sense and Sensibility (1811) picks up three years after the events of the original story. Marianne Dashwood, now Mrs. Brandon, is happily married to the devoted Colonel Brandon, and has a child of her own. Her sister, Elinor Dashwood, now Mrs. Ferrars, lives nearby with her husband Edward and their children. This novel focuses more, however, on the younger Dashwood sister, Margaret, who is now sixteen and quite beautiful. When Colonel Brandon’s handsome nephew, Henry, comes to Delaford to visit his uncle, Marianne is determined to play matchmaker between her nephew and sister. Marianne’s plans seem to be going well, Margaret and Henry become increasingly attached to one another. But nothing prepares Marianne for the shock she experiences next: John Willoughby, her first love who spurned her for a rich heiress, has returned to Dorsetshire with his wife. It appears that Willoughby and Mrs. Brandon will be forced to spend time in eachother’s company at social events in the neighborhood, and Marianne is conflicted by a resurgence of feelings for the dashing man. She becomes even more unsure as her husband spends more and more time with his ward, Eliza, and her daughter, who happens to be Willoughby’s daughter as well, in Lyme. Convinced that Colonel Brandon may have fallen in love with Eliza, Marianne begins to wonder if Willoughby’s affections might be worth returning.
Review:  Although the story doesn’t have the same literary magic of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, this sequel provides an entertaining and interesting read for those who loved the original story. Marianne Brandon, neé Dashwood, is now nineteen-years-old and has been happily married to her husband, Colonel Brandon, for three years. The couple have a child, and everything seems to be going well for Marianne, although she does appear to be slightly bored in her new life. She sees an opportunity for excitement when Brandon’s nephew, Henry, comes to visit and seeks to play matchmaker between him and her sister Margaret, now sixteen-years-old. The storyline of Henry and Margaret is not as interesting as the return of John Willoughby, however. Fans of the original, both teen and adult, will clamber to see what happens when Marianne encounters her first love. In Willoughby, Austen truly created a dashing lothario, and left the novel open enough to leave the reader wondering what would happen if Marianne and Willoughby were ever reunited. Odiwe does a good job of entertaining these notions, with a lot of sexual tension, temptation and lust. The rest of the storyline, such as Colonel Brandon’s supposed love for his ward, Eliza, and the inclusion of the irritating Lucy Ferrars and her sister, Anne Steele, are not quite as satisfactory. Still, the novel will appeal to both teen and adult fans of the original and continues in the spirit of the iconic Jane Austen.
Genre: Fiction/Historical
Reading level: Grade 7+

Similar titles: Novels by Jane Austen, Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen by Sybil G. Brinton.
Themes:  Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, roles of women throughout history, temptation, marriage.
Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist and The Jane Austen Centre.
Series Information: Sequel to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Discussion Questions:

- Is this the only "sequel" written to a Jane Austen novel? What are some others?
- Why do you think people continue to write sequels and adaptations of Jane Austen's works?
- Did you like Odiwe's portrayal of Austen's characters? Why or why not?
- Do you think John Willoughby is a "bad guy"? Why or why not?
- How do you think this novel portrays the role of women in this time period?

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