Jane Austen may not have finished her final novel Sanditon, but it’s due to be completed with the help of Andrew Davies, the writer whose Pride and Prejudice adaptation made a star out of Colin Firth and his dripping wet shirt.
ITV has announced that a new eight-part drama, based on the 11-chapter fragments in Austen’s final manuscript, will be penned by Davies, whose period drama credits also include TV versions of War & Peace, Little Dorrit and Austen’s Northanger Abbey.
Sanditon, written soon before Austen’s death in 1817, follows the impulsive Charlotte Heywood and her spiky relationship with the charming Sidney Parker. The tale sees Charlotte travel from her countryside home of Willingden to the titular fictional seaside town, inviting many “twists and turns”, according to ITV.
The unfinished manuscript was only published in 1925, over 100 years after Austen died aged 41.
“Jane Austen managed to write only a fragment of her last novel before she died – but what a fragment!” said Davies. “Sanditon tells the story of the transformation of a sleepy fishing village into a fashionable seaside resort, with a spirited young heroine, a couple of entrepreneurial brothers, some dodgy financial dealings, a West Indian heiress, and quite a bit of nude bathing.”
“[The series is] a rich, romantic, family saga built upon the foundations Jane Austen laid,” added Polly Hill, ITV’s Head of Drama.
Executive producer Belinda Campbell (Death in Paradise) said: “Sanditon’s themes of class divide, ambition, powerplay and matters of the heart are as relevant today as they were in the early 19th century and we can’t wait to bring this incredible adaptation to life for ITV audiences to enjoy.”
ITV says casting will be announced “in due course”, with filming expected to start in spring 2019.