Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
by Ben H. Winters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Book) / 978-1-59474-442-6
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Audiobook) / 978-1-4418-2436-3
When "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" came out, I knew I had to take the plunge. "Sense and Sensibility" being, of course, my favorite Austen novel, I was looking forward to re-reading a classic and seeing a touch of sea monster fun and humor thrown in.
Make no mistake about it: this book is delightfully funny. The superb Jane Austen prose is all here, but set in such a world where sea monster attacks are brutally common. The exquisite and seamless weaving of this tale (it is truly difficult to separate out the Jane Austen writing from Ben Winters', so thoroughly has he mimicked her style), will lead to a deeply humorous rendition of Austen's high society - where fatalities at beach dinner-parties are a common occurrence and it is the highest breech of manners for a gentleman or lady to acknowledge the death throes of a mere servant, trailing the water behind their pleasure boat. Certain scenes, such as Miss Steele's confession to Elinor Dashwood, are immeasurably enhanced by a concurrent attack on the boat by a vicious sea serpent, and Marianne's rescue by Willoughby is heightened greatly by the addition of an angry octopus.
What I did not expect, however, was just how good the story would be. Rather than make a Jane Austen book with throw-away sea monster jokes, Winters has written a complex and fascinating science fiction sub-plot within the Austen narrative. Though the book is hilarious from front to finish, I found myself laughing out loud less and less because I was more and more drawn into the actual story and I didn't want to waste a moment, even to laugh, before turning the next page. These additions are so superb and true to Austen's original characters - such as Elinor's brave stand against pirates whilst Marianne languishes ill below - that it is difficult to imagine that she would be any less delighted with this novel than I.
If you like Jane Austen and enjoy a touch of morbid humor interlaced with hoity-toity upper-crust social commentary, check out "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" - you'll come for the sea monsters, but I wager you'll stay for the story and become as swept away as I was.
A note about the audio book: I absolutely loved reading "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters", and this audio book does it such wonderful justice. The voice actress is absolutely superb, and perfectly encapsulates the wry Austen humor that makes this book such a classic. The reading really underlines how wonderfully seamlessly the sea monsters have been woven into the original story - whether the narrator is dwelling on the love trials of the two sisters, or on their imminent watery deaths at the tentacles of various unpleasant creatures, the prose flows smoothly and effortlessly, without the slightest hint of trouble. If you enjoyed Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters the book, or if you just enjoyed Sense and Sensibility, check out this audio recording and be delighted.
This audio book recording is the MP3 version of the book. It took less than a few minutes to insert the CD into my computer, and drag-and-drop all the MP3s from the CD file directory to my MP3 player, as simple as that. There are 50 tracks, one for each chapter.
~ Ana Mardoll
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