‘Sanditon’ on PBS: A complete beginners guide to this period drama
PBS’s Sanditon is their eight-part adaptation of Jane Austen’s unfinished final novel of the same name. The period drama follows Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) as she moves to the quiet fishing village of Sanditon for a fresh start, only to meet Sidney (Theo James), a charming man who has ambitions to turn the tranquil seaside residence into a luxury resort.
PBS called upon the master of Jane Austen adaptations, Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility) to write Sanditon, and the result is exactly the electric romantic drama that only Jane Austen and Andrew Davies can create.
Sanditon: Austen’s final novel
Jane Austen was eleven chapters into her final book, Sanditon before her death in 1817. Determined to write despite her illness, many of her chapters were completed in pencil because holding a pen was too difficult or her. While Austen’s working title for the novel was The Brothers, her family renamed it Sanditon, after the town that the heroine, Charlotte Heywood, settles in as a summer guest.
Happenstance brings Charlotte to Sanditon, after Mr. and Mrs. Parker crashes their carriage outside of her home in Sussex. The couple is forced to stay with the Heywood family as Mr. Parker recovers from the crash and their carriage is repaired. They regale the Heywood family of their plans to modernize the fishing village of Sanditon, making it a fashionable seaside resort. When the couple has finally recovered, they bring Charlotte to the town with them as a guest.
The characters lead the story
In Jane Austen fashion, it’s the characters who take center stage in Sanditon. Jane Austen never shied away from strong female lead characters and for the first time ever, introduces a woman of African descent. We’ll break down all of the characters so that you can turn your focus on the rest of the drama!
No stranger to a period drama, Rose Williams takes on the role of Charlotte Heywood after turns in the series, Reign, the Emily Dickinson biopic A Quiet Passion, the 15th-century series, Medici.
Charlotte Heywood is the modern, witty, and strong-willed Austen heroine we love immediately. The oldest daughter of the Heywood family, Charlotte’s transition from a country mouse to the world of an up and coming seaside village leaves her spinning.
Formerly a Turkish diplomat with a weak heart in Downton Abbey, Theo James is also the face of Hugo Boss’ signature scent, and now will forever be known as Sidney Parker. Sidney is the charming and mysterious brother to Charlotte’s hosts, who instantly draws Charlotte’s eye.
Because it can’t be Austen without a love triangle, Leo Suter takes on the role of Young Stringer. Suter previously made a name for himself in Victoria as the ill-fated Edward Drummond. Suter’s Young Stringer is the foreman on Sandition’s construction work, with architect dreams.
Brother to Sidney, Tom Parker is played by Kris Marshall (Love Actually, Death at a Funeral). The “man with a plan” Tom is Sandition’s chief developer, despite the fact that the size of his wallet doesn’t match the size of his vision.
Austen’s first character of African descent is no servant. Miss Georgiana Lambe is played by American actress, Crystal Clarke, who has been in everything from Downton Abbey to Star Wars Episode VIII. Described in Austen’s novel as a “young West Indian of large fortune,” of mixed race and around 17 years old.
In the series, Miss Lambe is the ward of a reluctant Sidney Parker, who brings her, much to her dismay, from the West Indies to London, and from London to the seaside resort of Sanditon.
Played by Anne Reid (Years and Years), Lady Denham is the wealthy widow who holds the purse strings in the Sanditon renovation. Lady Denham is surrounded with nieces and nephews who she all believes may be seeking her fortune, meanwhile, she is enjoying the power that comes with her wealth.
Already bringing some controversy
We were busing out the fans in the first episode of Sanditon, which includes Charlotte happening upon a. . .handjob. . .? In an Austen series? Wait, later, the couple explains that “Miss Brereton was distressed and I was endeavoring to comfort her”. We’ve never seen a man comfort a woman like that.
We can’t wait for the anticipated renewal of this beautiful period drama on PBS.