Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is Ben H. Winters’ imaginative parody of Jane Austen’s nineteenth century classic. With Austen listed as a co-author, the majority of the text is her original work, embedded with gory scenes of deadly ocean killers.
The story begins with Mrs Dashwood’s and her daughters’ disinheritance from Mr Dashwood’s fortune, following his death. In Winters’ version of events, he is massacred by a hammer head shark. They are driven out of their stately home, and forced to relocate to the Devonshire coast. The parody is centralised around “The Alteration”, which is described as change in a noxious stream, poisoning all waters in the world, making even the gentlest of sea creatures ‘aggressive, blood-thirsty predators, hardened and hateful towards our bipedal race’.
The Dashwoods are in grave danger, isolated on the uninhabited Pestilient Isle. Here they become acquainted with handsome Willoughby and Colonel Brandon, who is unfortunate enough to possess ‘a set of long, squishy tentacles protruding grotesquely from his face’, a humorous adaption of Austen’s less than handsome Brandon. Both men fall in love with Marianne Dashwood and thus commences the much enjoyed Austen love triangle, concluding with the young Marianne eventually marrying the octopus-esque gentleman.
Winters manages to cleverly weave the sea monsters into the original story, and they are eventually pivotal to the plot, yet it becomes predictable, repetitive, and at times, rather strained. Although Austen fans may be initially sceptical (I certainly was), Winters creates a slightly less dull version of this dearly loved classic. Whether he is paying homage to Austen, or completely destroying Sense and Sensibility must be a matter of opinion, but personally, I’ll be sticking to the Austen originals.