This year is the 200th anniversary of Sense and Sensibility. I’m going to be celebrating next weekend with P&P Tours in the house where they filmed Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility. It’s a beautiful house on a private estate in South Devon, and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone who’ll be coming along. We’ll no doubt have a wonderful time! I love the book, and it inspired my very own Willoughby’s Return.
An old lover is back, determined to make trouble…
I was fascinated by the fact that both Marianne and Brandon had both enjoyed other romantic attachments before they found each other, and because of the connection, and the resulting child between Brandon’s ward (who was the daughter of his first love) and Willoughby, I wondered how this might impact on the Brandons’ marriage. I imagined Marianne might find dealing with the past difficult sometimes. Might she be a little jealous of the relationship that Brandon has with his ward, especially when she knows how much he loved her mother, and would Marianne be able to face seeing her with Willoughby’s child?In Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, when Marianne Dashwood marries Colonel Brandon, she puts her heartbreak over dashing scoundrel John Willoughby behind her. Three years later, Willoughby’s return throws Marianne into a tizzy of painful memories and exquisite feelings of uncertainty. Willoughby is as charming, as roguish, and as much in love with her as ever. And the timing couldn’t be worse—with Colonel Brandon away and Willoughby determined to win her back, will Marianne find the strength to save her marriage, or will the temptation of a previous love be too powerful to resist?
Marianne knows that the Colonel was reminded of his old love when he met Marianne. Would she wonder if she was always being compared? Here’s a short extract:
Pausing on the stairs as she rushed down to the awaiting carriage, she looked up at the painting, which of all the works hanging in the hall, never failed to arrest her. It was of a woman, who had by some strange twist of fate a close resemblance to herself. The young lady was standing arm in arm with a man, who had a look of Brandon, only this painted version had a leaner face with a distinctly cruel mouth. At least, Marianne thought his mouth brutal in appearance, especially knowing that it belonged to Brandon’s brother who had borne no love for the wealthy wife who was to save the family home from ruin. Eliza Brandon, captured so elegantly in oils, wearing a gown fashionable twenty or more years ago, was Brandon’s sweetheart from his youth, yet forced against her will to marry his brother. Here depicted on her fateful wedding day, forever smiling in pink silk against a background of verdant landscape, perpetual happiness was displayed in her pretty smile. But on closer examination Marianne saw that the smile did not quite reach her eyes, and further observation suggested that her slim fingers betrayed her true feelings, as they barely rested on the arm of the bridegroom who had eventually divorced and abandoned her.
Marianne was struck once more by the uncanny likeness. “She is like my mirror image,” she thought, “and yet, Eliza looks taller, more statuesque, and I must admit, more beautiful than I could ever hope to be. Is her daughter such a vision of loveliness also, I wonder?”
Eliza’s eyes seemed to gaze back at her in return as if telling her that she would only be capable of bearing a divine child. In Marianne’s imagination she saw the two women, Eliza Brandon and her daughter Eliza Williams, looking down at her with the same glittering eyes, both bound to William with a hold she felt incapable of challenging or surmounting.
“But what of little Lizzy?” she asked herself about the child whose very existence caused Marianne’s heart to ache. Did she favour her mother and grandmother before her? Did she have the same dark grey eyes or was there a stronger resemblance in a pair of black eyes of her own, to match those of her father, John Willoughby?Finally, here’s a trailer for the film – I love this adaptation!
Jane Odiwe is the author of four novels, Searching for Captain Wentworth, Mr Darcy’s Secret, Willoughby’s Return, and Lydia Bennet’s Story, as well as the picture book, Effusions of Fancy, and the short story, Waiting, which was commissioned for the anthology by Laurel Ann Nattress, Jane Austen Made Me Do It.