The vast majority of fan fiction caters to those who favor Pride and Prejudice and are particularly enamored of Mr. Darcy. Though I find enjoyment in reading these mash-ups, vagaries, and continuations, my favorite of the Jane Austen novels is Sense and Sensibility.
I’m sure this in no small way is attributed to the fact that Sense and Sensibility was the first Jane Austen novel I ever read and the fact that it was done as part of a 19th Century British Novel study course that focused on women in fiction. In addition to reading it and loving it, I had the opportunity to discuss it at length with others, allowing me to appreciate it on many levels.
So when Expectations of Happiness by Rebecca Ann Collins came out I was understandably anxious and apprehensive to read it. It is a sequel, but I like how printed on the cover beneath the title it reads, “A Companion Volume to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.” Something about the idea of it being a companion rather than directly labeled as a sequel made it seem more welcoming with less expectation attached. Sequels have taken on this connotation of having to be bigger and better than the original with more twists and turns, but a companion connotes the idea of simpatico. At least this is the case in my mind.
I found it a very satisfying read. There were some things I would have liked to know that seemed to be left unanswered, but these were not issues that detracted from the story of characters I’ve loved since being first introduced to them by Jane Austen. Collins takes them on into married life believably and introduces complications and challenges that explore Elinor and Marianne more. She brings Margaret into womanhood, and though I’m not sure Austen would have liked this Margaret, I found myself intrigued.
The restrained tone characteristic of all Austen novels was well implemented while risking moments that bring the characters very near where socially acceptable becomes scandal. I found myself concerned and afraid of the choices before the characters to make because I could see the temptations. There were moments I worried that a misstep could ruin everything.
That is what makes Expectations of Happiness a very nice companion. It takes you gently by the hand on a journey to see how things do not always go as planned, temptations present themselves, and that there are risks in any relationship with expectations of happiness. Like a good companion, though, it holds on, keeping you on course until the end. I barely put the book down, needing to know how things would turn out. That is always the sign of a good book.
I’ll also add that I found that whether by coincidence or design reading Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Colonel Brandon’s Diary by Amanda Grange, and then Expectations of Happiness by Rebecca Ann Collins I felt as if they all went very well together. I’m a little afraid to read Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe as I have such adoration for Colonel Brandon, but how can I resist?
What did you think of Expectations of Happiness? Have you read any of the other Sense and Sensibility related books? Are there any others I should know about?