#6Degrees of Separation: From Sanditon…

Time for one of my favourite monthly memes: Six Degrees of Separation is hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best. You start with the book suggested by Kate and create a chain of six books linked by whatever means to the one before. I couldn’t resist a Jane Austen book and her last, unfinished novel Sanditon is our starting point this month.

Most of the covers of Sanditon are abysmal, so I chose this more or less contemporary illustration.

Sadly, there’s not much left of Sanditon, but given that Austen’s previous novel Persuasion is my favourite, and shows signs of a maturing, ever more sensitive and subtle writer, it could potentially have been a satirical masterpiece. The recent TV series based on it was most definitely not!

Another novel that had a very disappointing TV adaptation recently was H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. I gave up about half-way through, as they managed to make Wells’ exciting story as dull as ditchwater. Quite unlike the infamous radio adaptation of it by Orson Welles in 1938, which is supposed to have started a mass panic in New York City. (Turns out, this is a bit of a myth.)

A book about a real mass hysteria phenomenon is Time to Dance, a Time to Die: The Extraordinary Story of the Dancing Plague of 1518 by John Waller. In the summer of 1518 hundreds of men and women started dancing compulsively in the city of Strasbourg, until they died of heat stroke and exhaustion. Waller tries to find an explanation for this random and crazy phenomenon, but there is a distinct lack of real historical sources, so it will leave readers somewhat disappointed.

Speaking of mass hysteria and quasi-religious movements, how can I not mention the Jonestown massacre? I’ve read a lot about it in the course of my own studies of cults, but there’s a debut novel out entitled Beautiful Revolutionary by Australian author Laura Elizabeth Woollett that has caught my eye. Based upon interviews with the survivors of the 1978 mass ‘suicide’ in the Guyana jungle, the fictionalised account suggests (perhaps somewhat naively) that the victims of Jim Jones were also a victim of the times and society they lived in.

My next book shares ‘revolutionary’ in the title and perhaps also the feeling of discontent with society, but is very different. One of my all-time favourite novels, although I found it very difficult to read at the time (for personal reasons): Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road.

Another woeful story about marital breakdown is German author’s Jakob Wassermann’s My Marriage (translated by Michael Hofmann), published posthumously and based on the author’s own unhappy marriage in Vienna.

My final link is another posthumous book – and probably just as well that it was posthumous, as it would probably have led to the death of the author in any case. The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov is one of my favourite books of all time (I’ve even done a special Friday Fun edition of its cover art): surreal, impossible to describe, infuriating and very, very funny. It’s about the madness of trying to make sense of an absurd world. And it comes back full circle to the equally posthumous Sanditon

13 thoughts on “#6Degrees of Separation: From Sanditon…”

  1. Interesting set of links, as ever. I think TV adaptations are the reason why Austen’s novels are so often presented as love stories rather than social commentary with a disticntly acerbic edge. What a shame about the Waller. Have you read read Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms? A simiarily niche piece of history but meticulously researched.

  2. A very clever chain, Marina Sofia! And you make a well-taken point about books that have disappointing adaptations. Some of them are really badly done. I like your link related to mass hysteria/beliefs, too. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, and I’m not surprised it interests you to read a lot about i t.

  3. A very interesting chain Marina Sofia. I have now seen 5 of the 8 episodes of Sanditon, and am enjoying it well enough, as long as I forget it’s Sanditon, because, I agree with you, it has none of Austen’s wit and nuance. It’s all laid rather too bare, in all senses of the word in fact. Haha.

  4. What an interesting chain! I never watch adaptations of books I love nowadays as they’re mostly rubbish – apart from one I really loved, which was the 2005 Russian adaptation of Master and Margarita! Loved it to bits, but the book is of course always better!

  5. Very interesting chain! I watched all of Sanditon avidly, even though it was rubbish. And I did like the Waller book, though he does say the same thing over and over again.

  6. I gave up on the War of the Worlds adaptation too. It was so disappointing! The John Waller book sounds fascinating, despite the lack of sources.

  7. I couldn’t bear to watch the Sanditon ‘adaptation’ after reading all of Jane Austen’s material was used in just the first half of the first episode, not surprising as it’s not a long fragment. But I’d enjoyed Sanditon so much I didn’t want to watch Andrew Davies’ version. And I agree completely about War of the Worlds – it was a terrible version of Wells’ story!

    The Master and Margarita is a book that know nothing about – it sounds fascinating!

  8. I gave up on The War of the Worlds adatptation after twenty minutes on the grounds that it really had very little to do with the HG Wells story, which did not contain a scandalous affair and a heroine. But that was quite a success in comparison to Sanditon, which I abandoned before the opening credits when the announcer gave a sex scenes and foul language warning! Poor HG! Poor Jane! 😂

  9. I gave up on Sanditon. I watched episode 1 and was underwhelmed but thought if I changed my attitude maybe I could enjoy it. So I watched episode 2 on the basis that it was not an ‘adaptation of Austen’, in fact it had little to do with Austen. But the strategy didn’t work because the series was too lack-lustre.

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