Period dramas never seem to go out of style, especially when it comes to series based on the works of Jane Austen. Beginning this Sunday (Aug. 25) on ITV, Austen's last work Sanditon will finally get the adaption treatment. Although, fans of Austen and the novel may be wondering how the series will pan out, as the Sanditon book ending is actually non-existent.
What do I mean by that? Well, as Stylist notes, Austen began writing Sanditon (initially titled The Brothers) a few months before she passed away, leaving the book unfinished at 11 chapters. What was written focuses on Charlotte Heywood (played by Rosie Williams) and her relationship with Sidney Parker (played by Theo James). As ITV's synopsis reads, the story unfolds "[w]hen a chance accident transports her from her rural town of Willingden to the would-be coastal resort of the eponymous title, it exposes Charlotte to the intrigues and dalliances of a seaside town on the make, and the characters whose fortunes depend on its commercial success."
"The twists and turns of the plot, which takes viewers from the West Indies to the rotting alleys of London, exposes the hidden agendas of each character and sees Charlotte discover herself and ultimately find love."
As romantic as that sounds, the ambiguous ending leaves the series in a rather unique situation, as it will give fans of the author a chance to see how the novel could have concluded. But how on earth do you go about continuing the work of one of the world's most recognised authors?
Thankfully, "[w]hat Austen did was set up a place and establish this wonderful group of characters very clearly, but she never got the story going at all," writer Andrew Davies told The Times, who scripted the series. The writer and director was also behind the 1995 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, so he has quite a lot of experience with the author's work, as well as bringing other period pieces to life like War and Peace, Vanity Fair, and Bleak House.
Austen's last novel also signalled a change in character direction for the writer — especially when it came to the men. "This idea of a new kind of Jane Austen man had real appeal," he added. "These are not gentleman farmers or landed aristocrats, but businessmen and entrepreneurs. They're something new, more representative of what the country was going to become in the industrial age."
With a shift in character development and the fact that Davies had already "used up all his Austen material by halfway through the first episode," it's clear that this adaptation of Sanditon will be a side of Austen that has never been seen before. "We just sat around talking and thinking and saying, 'Dare we do that? Yeah!'," Davies said, which The Times connects to a sex scene in the first episode — of which the writer wasn't shy about including.
And as actor Jack Fox (who plays Edward Denham) said during a preview screening (via the Telegraph), "[O]bviously people got up to all sorts of mischief," and that there seems to be a misunderstanding that people of the 19th century were "too good and too proper to indulge in such things."
I think it's safe to say that this is one Austen adaptation you do not want to miss.
Sanditon begins on ITV at 9 p.m. this Sunday (Aug. 25)