Saturday, January 03, 2015


I’ve just read Joanna Trollope’s reworking of Sense and Sensibility – written as part of a current project to bring all of Jane Austen’s novels into the 21st Century. My verdict: well-written, but it doesn’t work. The social norms about marriage and wealth prevailing at the time Austen wrote do not still hold today.

But then I wondered if they do still hold in the world which Joanna T inhabits. In her world people wear gumboots, not wellies, and they have supper, not tea, so maybe the whole marriage thing is different too (tongue in cheek here.)

The other thing to say about the novel is that although I have read and enjoyed – no, been positively gripped by -  several of Trollope’s earlier novels, every time I read a new one, her voice ends up irritating me. She’s obviously a stonkingly good novelist, and she writes well about families and emotions, but – and this is my own peculiar, personal reaction – her writer’s voice gets on my nerves.

his masters voice

There is one particular thing I can’t stand, and that’s the way she breaks up her dialogue. Here is an example of something that might have occurred in one of my Plotting books, but written a la Trollope…

I want,” said Richard fiercely, “a new pair of underpants. Not just one pair, but a whole fleet of them. I want to enter a new underpant era.”

He was, Sally thought as she nursed her mug of tea, rather nuts.

People in Trollope novels nurse their tea and their coffee mugs. They also often say things fiercely. But it’s that cutting into what a character says or thinks, with a subordinate clause, that gets up my nose.

And then I wondered what there is about my voice that gets up readers’ noses.

Feel free, dear readers.



marmee said...

So dislike the very thing you describe! It strikes me as poor writing because the reader has to be instructed as to what is happening rather than being able to infer from context or writing...and maybe also it is lazy.....

Good new year to you and yours...

marmee said...

suddenly thought you might read my comment as pertaining to yourself!! doesn't! certainly applies to Trollope and to Patricia Cornwell. But don't you think Joanna Trollope used to be better?

Sue Hepworth said...

So glad it's not just me who feels like that. I think perhaps Trollope's earlier novels were better, on the whole. I think she's always had a tendency to break up her dialogue badly, but either I didn't notice before because I was so gripped by the novel, OR I didn't notice before because I wasn't writing novels myself then.
Happy New Year, Marmee!