Take a fresh look at the romantic Jane Austen classic in Kaitlin Saunders’s heartwarming new novel, A Modern Day Sense and Sensibility. After A Modern Day Persuasion proved a hit, this latest installment in Saunders’s successful series of Austen retellings will have readers swooning at the comical misunderstandings and classic romances that are newly envisioned for modern times.
After their father’s untimely death, Ellie and Marianne Dashwood must suffer the loss of both their beloved parent and their fortune when, together with their mother and younger sister, they find themselves at the mercy of their half brother and his greedy wife, Francil. Ellie temporarily finds solace in a new friendship with Francil’s brother, Edward. But as their connection deepens and Edward fails to make the next move, Ellie becomes increasingly confused. Eventually Francil’s manipulations become unbearable and the Dashwood ladies are forced to relocate to a dingy apartment building in Portland, Oregon, owned by their quirky cousin and his busybody mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings. Slowly, the women begin adapting to their newfound meager lifestyle. While cutting coupons and watching their budget, the Dashwoods welcome the chance to make new acquaintances in their new town. One such acquaintance is Mrs. Jennings’s friend Brandon, a wealthy thirty-something hotel entrepreneur who is immediately infatuated with Marianne. Turned off by their relatively large age gap, Marianne turns her attention to the suspiciously perfect Jim Willoughby. But just as things start heating up between them, she learns that the situation may not be exactly as it seems.
As the sisters struggle through secrets, illness, and broken promises, Ellie and Marianne must find the answer: Does love really conquer all? Find out in Saunders’s romantic rendition of a beloved classic.
Q: After retelling JA's Persuasion in a modern context, Kaitlin, you decided to do the same with Sense & Sensibility. Are they your best favourites among Austen's major six? If not, what are the reasons of choosing them?
Q: Why did you feel the need to modernize these classic, evergreen stories?
A: Many of my friends love watching Jane Austen movies or other Austen-inspired material, but have never taken the time to read the books because they can't understand some of the verbiage nor relate to the customs and manners of the day. Even I had trouble recently when re-reading Sense & Sensibility -- I had to sometimes re-read a passage several times to understand what was being said. So when my ideas for modernizing these novels started coming together, I didn't just push aside the task and add it to my 'someday to-do list' -- I got to work! I want my friends to enjoy Austen's tales as much as I do.
Q: Did you change the original plot in any 'surprising way' or did you follow it thoroughly?
A: I feel like I did have to make more changes this time than with Persuasion, simply because there were more circumstances that wouldn't translate well in this present day. For instance: why on earth would Edward feel obligated to continue his relationship with Lucy when a man's word isn't as binding now as back then? And the Dashwood ladies being unable to inherit the estate? Things like that just wouldn't make sense if I tried sticking to every detail of the original plot.
Q: Thinking about the main characters in your new book, how different are they from their Regency counterparts?
A: I'd like to think they are still the same characters, only with a modern twist. They still encompass the same morals and standards, but now Marianne, for instance, can be more expressive with her jewelry and color palette.
Q: Talking about the heroes in S & S, Brandon, Edward or Willoughby. Choose your favourite and tell us why.
A: I know this will shock some people, but Willoughby is my favorite, especially Jane Austen's version of this hero. He's so perfect and his undoing seems so unnecessary that it breaks one's heart!
Q: Well Kaitlin, many Janeites will think us crazy but I totally agree with you. I find he is the male character Jane Austen depicts better among the three. Willoughby is a complex character, not just a type (many pages are focused on his defence toward the end of the novel).
A: That's one of the things I noticed when re-reading S&S while researching for my novel -- the defense. I feel like she put more effort into Willoughby as a character than any other hero. And although she makes him fall, Austen writes his redemption at the end of the book with her defense for his poor choices. I think secretly she loved someone very much like Willoughby.
Q: Focusing now on the protagonists, which one of the two sisters do you resemble the most? Elinor or Marianne?
A: Hands down Elinor, or “Ellie” as I call her in my adaptation. Although I wish I could be more expressive like Marianne and hold nothing back and live with no regrets, I'm much too guarded and concerned about what others think, like Ellie.
Q: If you could live one of their adventures and misadventures for one day, which moment would choose to live?
A: I think I would want to live Marianne's first encounter with Willoughby. Although my interpretation of their meeting makes me blush and want to duck under a blanket, I wouldn't mind a Knight-In-Shining armor coming to my rescue!
Q: What are the easiest and the most difficult tasks in transferring an Austen-esque tale to contemporary settings? Is there much which goes inevitably lost?
A: I don't think much gets lost, at least in my versions. I try to keep every significant event, which is why some readers complain that my books are too much like the originals -- but that's why I call them “Modern Day” adaptations. I want them to be the same stories, only modernized. And yes, it is a difficult task transferring it to contemporary settings. For instance, Austen's women didn't work, but then, what did they do all day? What type of occupations could I give them or day to day employments that would be realistic? The easiest task for me was updating their personas and how they might look in this day and age. It's probably my favorite part of modernizing.
Q: What is it that you learnt reading and re-writing S & S? Any special lesson/message?
A: People are the same today as they were back then, honestly. Sure, we dress differently and the customs and manners of the day are different, but human nature is still human nature! There will always be Edwards, Brandons, and Willoughbys -- and we woman just have to be equipped to tell the difference between them!
Q: Have you planned to re-write other Austen novels? What are you working on now?
A: Although I'm tinkering with an idea for another Austen adaptation, currently I'm working on a more original work revolving around a mother-daughter relationship. However, with my second child due February 2014, I'm not expecting to finish this anytime soon! :D
Kaitlin Saunders is proficient on the works of Jane Austen and finds that literature written by Austen serves to give her inspiration. At age sixteen, Saunders began her literary career writing her first screenplay, titled "Caroline," later bringing this period piece to life. She directed and produced this film, which gained popularity after being aired on local television. Her first novel, A Modern Day Persuasion, was published in 2011. Saunders and her husband enjoy cuddling up with their daughter and watching BBC as a family.
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