In Sense and Sensibility, Margaret, the youngest Dashwood sister, is only a young teenager, but witness to the pain her sisters are suffering for love. Now, at 17, she is the only daughter living at home with her mother. She wants more of life then the monotony of Barton Park and playing nursemaid to the Middleton children, but is also hestitant in socializing with men, cautious of making the same mistakes as her sisters.
A long time ago, I read a Pride and Prejudice continuation by Julia Barrett. I don't remember much about it, but that I really enjoyed it. So when I saw The third sister in a second hand bookstore, I bought it immediately. Us Austen fans can be a difficult bunch to please with Austen continuations, I know I am! The third sister definitely falls on the right side of the genre, though it is not the very best I've ever read.
The style is the very best thing about this novel. Julia Barrett manages to emulate the 19th century style of Jane Austen, without being cramped. Jane Austen ofcourse is queen of humorous social satire, but I feel Julia Barrett comes quite close here. I snickered at her dry descriptions of John and Fanny Dashwood and Robert and Lucy Ferrars. Also, I liked how this novel included the historic events of the Napoleontic era and the influx of many French aristrocrats into English society. Finally, I enjoyed how Julia Barrett wrote Margaret. Many modern authors of 'Austenesque' books make the heroines also very modern, in their thinking and behaving. In this novel, Margaret is a real Regency character and her thoughts and doubts are (in my opinion) fitting for a girl of her period.
The thing is though, we don't get to know Margaret thát well in this (relatively short) novel. The story doesn't just visit S&S characters like Elinor, Marianne, Fanny and John etc, multiple chapters are even written from their standpoint. And while it's fun to meet up again with these well-known and loved characters (and to see Elinor and Marianne so happy!), it also distracts from Margaret's storyline. This is probably the reason the ending of The third sister felt rather rushed. Also, I missed a good buildup of the relationship between Margaret and her suitor.
Overall, while this novel is not among my favourites, it's definitely a pleasant (such a proper Austen term!) one-time read which I can recommend to my fellow Austen fans.
This review was written for Hamlette's I love Jane Austen week