The Watsons/Sanditon - Anna Bentinck, Jane Austen
Listening to this excellent audiobook of Jane Austen's incomplete novels very capably narrated by Anna Bentinck was a bittersweet experience. While I enjoyed Austen's customary sharp wit and social satire, it was impossible not to reflect on the circumstances which led to both novels being unfinished.

Austen started writing The Watsons in around 1803 and probably abandoned it around the time of her father's death in January 1805. It tells the story of Emma Watson, who returns to live with her father and sisters after the wealthy aunt who raised her contracts an imprudent second marriage. Had it been completed, it is clear that a major focus of the novel would have been the economic and social realities of life for women without independent means.

Austen was very ill when she started writing Sanditon in January 1817 and she completed eleven chapters before abandoning the novel two months later, only four months before her death. It is quite different from Austen's other novels. The novel explores the lives of families who live in Sanditon, a small watering place (probably based on Worthing) which is still in the process of development. Parts of Sanditon are extremely funny, particularly the account of the hypochondria and self-medication of two of the characters and the unstoppable enthusiasm for the development of Sanditon by another.

Both The Watsons and Sanditon have been finished by other writers and several versions of each of the novels exist. Maybe I'll get around to reading one of more of them one of these days. However, I'm in no real hurry to do so, as I'd rather read an incomplete work by Austen than a complete one by a writer trying to duplicate her style.

Given that the works are incomplete, it's not realistic to rate these books as highly as Austen's masterpieces and they fall into 3-1/2 star territory. However, they are definitely worthwhile reading for the Austen enthusiast.