There is something you should know about me…once I start a book, I am going to finish it. I want to know how it ends! What if it gets good at the last moment?!? It takes a truly horrible book to get me to set it down. I could probably count the number of books I have stopped reading once I began, on one hand.
That said…I recently finished “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” by Ben Winters and Jane Austen, but if I was a normal person, I would have quit after the first couple of chapters. It was simply not good. Where “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” by Seth Grahame-Smith made me laugh out loud and smile at the far-fetched premise that a zombie-creating-illness had taken hold of Britian…”Sea Monsters” just made me annoyed with the author.
The thing that made “Zombies” successful for me was that it stayed true to the story, the setting and the characters. Grahame-Smith layed a the veneer of the un-dead over “Pride and Prejudice.” I think Winters had a great idea, but completely failed in the execution. He re-molded “Sense and Sensibility” to fit into a sea monster book; that is really at the root of all the problems I had with this book.
For example, while reading “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters,” I was completely put off by his lack of finesse. At every major plot point he added a monster attack or some other distraction. In the end note there is an attempt to explain this as a dramatic tool, but every time it happened it just felt like poor writing. Instead of enhancing Austen’s pivotal scenes, he covered them up with fish-slime and sea water.
Also, I was completely irritated by the additional plot lines. Margaret gets a storyline, as does Lady Middleton, and there are a heap of new characters. It felt like Winters was trying to fit all his sea monster ideas into one book, but that space was already occupied by “Sense and Sensibility.” So…he just pushed and prodded and cajoled all the material until he had a mashed up mess that didn’t work as an Austen appropriation or a story about sea monsters.
I think Winters did a disservice to both himself and the original novel. He could have written an excellent sea monster tale, but he should have left Austen out of it.
Recommendation: Stay away. Sorry, but I don’t have any qualifications today.