Willoughby’s Return


Odiwe’s follow-up to Sense and Sensibility tries hard to invoke the Austen magic, but sadly isn’t quite up to the mark. Her Marianne Brandon is thinly and unconvincingly drawn, and rather annoying; younger sister Margaret is more appealing, though shallow. The crowded cast includes lesser characters like Lucy Ferrars and the bustling Mrs. Jennings, a worthy attempt that falls flat into mere caricature. Elinor Dashwood Ferrars comes across as a prudish, fussy woman, and Colonel Brandon is a cipher, though a nice one.

My most serious disappointment is that the plot (in itself somewhat predictable and thin: “Let’s find a husband for Margaret!”) is carried forward with an unimaginative pastiche of dialogues that are taken, some almost word for word, from Austen’s classic novels, or in scenes clearly derived from the slew of popular modern films—in her desire to make everything “Austen-like,” Odiwe borrows too much from Austen and doesn’t give us enough of her own creation. I realize such Austen references are common in sequels, but it shouldn’t be this obvious and heavy-handed.

The style is wooden and banal with odd choices (people “butt in” to conversations, or “shout” their questions; nice ladies “smirk”). Marianne’s and Margaret’s private thoughts are often (but not always) presented in quotation marks, making it confusing as to whether they’re speaking aloud or not. The “realistic” details of country fairs, clothing, and carriages seem present only to persuade the reader this is an historical novel, but without conviction or ease.


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