Thursday, December 3, 2009
Review: Wiloughby's Return by Jane Odiwe
Sequels, prequels, paraliterature; we see it everywhere, especially in regard to Austen. I am often skeptical, but when I saw Jane Odiwe (author of Lydia Bennet's Story) had a new sequel to Sense and Sensibility I thought I'd give it a read. I'm glad I did.
Unlike most sequels that endow Austen's characters with alarming amounts of sex and violence, Odiwe keeps in the spirit of Austen's style. She resurrects her most charming rogue with success. At the end of S&S the secondary heroine, Marianne Dashwood, marries the much older Colonel Brandon and the dashing Wiloughby disappears with his wife, married only for the money. Many fans have often asserted that Wiloughby's not a bad guy, that they almost wish in spite of everything that he and Marianne end up together.
This novel begins three years after the close of Austen's novel. It brings up very real concerns in Marianne's marriage to the Colonel. Does he only love her because she reminds him of his long dead first love? Does he spend too much time with his ward? At the same time, Odiwe also shows how much their relationship has grown from the timid affection and gratitude Marianne originally had toward the Colonel. It has a believable conflict for Marianne to face as her husband is constantly absent and her first love waltzes back into her life.
Though the title character, Wiloughby has comparably few scenes in the book, his prescence hangs over the story, even in the subplot surrounding Margaret, Marianne's younger sister, who is falling in love for the first time herself. It was refreshing to see her character grow, she is barely a shadow in the original novel. Perhaps 'subplot' is too subdued a term for her role in this book, she dominates the story at many moments, her struggles recieving almost equal time to Marianne's.
I would have liked to see more of Elinor and how her life with the trying Ferrars clan is at this point. Her major role in this story is to present an image of an ideal marriage match for Margaret. There are some spectacular cameos by Mrs. Jennings, Lucy and Robert Ferrars, and other amusing characters from S&S.
Overall, it was a tasteful, well constructed story that paid homage to Austen's style and characters. Jane would approve.