Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Review: Willoughby's Return by Jane Odiwe

Here it is midweek, and I feel like I was just staring down the week on Sunday night! Where do the days fly off to, and how can I keep up? When I head off to school in the mornings, I always sigh and pray for the day to go smoothly and find me back home again soon. It's not that I don't enjoy teaching, because I do, but it is work (with teens no less)! So here I am, amazed that we have almost tackled yet another work week.

This week I wanted to review another great Jane Austen sequel that was just released on the first of this month, by Jane Odiwe, Willoughby's Return. Although I've often reviewed Pride and Prejudice sequels and remakes, this particular novel takes a second look at Sense and Sensibility and allows us to consider "what if" in following the Dashwoods out of those final pages of Austen's original novel.

Synopsis: In this sequel to Sense and Sensibility we find Marianne Dashwood Brandon married to Colonel Brandon, and now turning her sights on matchmaking for her younger sister Margaret. Although Marianne dearly loves her husband, the Colonel often leaves to take care of his young charge (a young child fathered by his first love's daughter & none other than Willoughby), which leaves Marianne feeling insecure about her relationship. As she frequently watches as the Colonel, rather honorably, takes off to care for his charge, Marianne secretly wonders if he does so out of a continued love that he can't quite get over.

To complicate things further, Willoughby returns, only to stir up old feelings that Marianne thought she'd stamped out. Both characters are married, but it soon becomes apparent that there is unfinished business, and Marianne must decide if her love and relationship with the Colonel trumps that of her first love. Besides, isn't he also still harboring feelings for his first love?

Review: Let me begin by saying that I really did enjoy this novel. I did, however, have a pretty emotional response to the story. Having "loved and lost" in a pretty intense way myself, I hated the thought that this first love might haunt you throughout your days. This wasn't the only reason for my response. I also felt that Marianne and the Colonel kept dancing around the subject of their insecurities. Maybe it's a modern concept, but a simple conversation or two might have proved invaluable in clearing the air on their relationship and how they felt; passages of a romantic nature (not graphic or even stated at all) did not mend the initial problem, and left me feeling anxious for all that went unsaid between the two. Let me not mention how dastardly Willoughby appears in this story as well. While dashing, the fact that he could overlook a wife of his own, to once again reconsider Marianne, even after crushing and humiliating her, was frustrating. Why should Marianne even give him a second glance? Oh, but am I bringing up more of what I would do in this situation, with my fantasies of slamming a door in my own first real love's face...nah...right?

The only real quibble I have with the story came in the narration. The style was in keeping with the time, but watching as the story switched back and forth from Marianne to Margaret was sometimes confusing and I sometimes had to backtrack to see who I was following. Because of the impact Willoughby was having on the story, each time it switched to Margaret, I really felt like skimming forward. It's not that Margaret was an insignificant element to the story, but just now what I was wanting to learn more about. This is a good story and entertaining follow up to Sense and Sensibility, and one that allows the reader to explore the "what if" factor of a love lost.

This is my fourth of six in the Everything Austen Challenge. Also, for more information about the novel, see:Willoughby's Return.

***This review based off of an Advanced Release Copy sent to me by Sourcebooks.


  1. This sounds good. I read her Lydia Bennet's Story and loved it.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  2. I can definitely understand and sympathize with the issues you had with this book. If Marianne is re-interested in Willoughby, she better have a darn good reason for it, imo.

  3. Hi,
    I just wanted to say thank you for your thoughtful review, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I think the idea of clearing everything up with a conversation is a modern concept - even when I was growing up it was frowned upon to completely air your feelings especially if they might hurt someone. Marianne has aired her feelings to Brandon and realised how much she's hurt him, so is reticent another time to say anything. Jane Austen used this device in all her books - there are too many examples to illustrate here, but off the top of my head - if Jane and Elizabeth had had a five minute conversation with friends and family Lydia would not have been seduced - if Elinor had told Marianne about Edward's secret engagement her sister would have realised that she was suffering as much. Austen's plots are driven by this sort of dilemma - it's supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, the pay off is always a happy ending!

    I hope your readers will add to the debate!