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Sanditon: Everything you need to know about ITV’s Austen drama

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Aiden Wynn
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Sanditon: Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) and Sidney Parker (Theo James) in first-look images from the upcoming ITV series

A new Jane Austen period drama is coming to ITV – but not one you’ll have seen before.

Ask someone to name a book by Jane Austen, and chances are they’ll be able to come up with at least one title straight away. That’s partially down to Austen’s excellent writing, and partially down to the numerous adaptations her books have spawned, from the Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle-starring BBC series of Pride and Prejudice (the one true Pride and Prejudice adaptation), to 1995’s Sense and Sensibility TV show with Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson.

But we’ll soon be introduced to a completely different Austen, when ITV’s adaptation of Sanditon hits the screens. “Sanditon?”, we hear you cry. “What’s that?” 

Austen started Sanditon just months before she died, leaving the book unfinished at just 11 chapters long. It’s a book that’s unfamiliar to all but the most ardent Austen fans, but when ITV’s forthcoming adaptation airs, it’s sure to become as well known as the author’s other work.

Here’s what we know so far about this fresh, new take on the classic and widely-adapted writer. 

When did Jane Austen write Sanditon?

Based upon Jane Austen’s manuscript of the same name, Sanditon was started in January 1817 under the original title of The Brothers. Unfortunately, though, the story was left unfinished in the months before her untimely death. 

Because the snippet left by Austen was only 11 chapters long, the story will likely be unexpected for those familiar with the literary giant’s completed works. Which means that, basically, this will be Jane Austen, but not as we know it. 

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What’s the plot?

The plot of the novel’s first 11 chapters centres on Charlotte Heywood, the eldest daughter of a country gentleman, who has seen little of the world outside of her home in Willingden, Sussex. But when she goes to assist the kind and wealthy Parkers after their carriage crashes, she is offered a trip to Sanditon as a gesture of the couple’s thanks. 

Sanditon is a small fishing village that the Parkers, particularly the somewhat over-enthusiastic Tom Parker, have turned into a fashionable seaside resort. While there, Charlotte meets a cast of characters, including the twice-widowed Lady Denham who wants a return on her investment in Sanditon, and whose large fortune and lack of obvious heir leads her to believe that people are after her money. There’s also the sweet and impoverished Clara Brereton whom Lady Denham favours, and who appears to have some sort of covert relationship with Lady Denham’s nephew, Edward Denham. And then there’s Sidney Parker, Tom’s brother, who is elusive and handsome, and seems set up to be the hero and love interest of the novel. 

And… that’s about it. There isn’t a great deal of plot established by Austen, so the starting point for the show is rooted very firmly in its characters. 

The much beloved Pride and Prejudice (1995) creator is at the helm

An absolute pro at adaptations, Sanditon series creator Andrew Davies is the man behind films and TV shows including Bridget Jones’ Diary, Mr Selfridge, and, of course, the 1995 serialisation of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From such a seasoned, Emmy and BAFTA-winning pro, Sanditon promises to have depth, humour, and to be populated by the sort of memorable and lively characters Davies is so good at writing. 

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Who stars in Sanditon

Up-and-comer Rose Williams will take on the starring role as the strong and eager Charlotte Heywood, who is taken in by the familiar faces of Kris Marshall as Tom Parker, and Kate Ashfield as Mary Parker. 

Other notable acting credits include Divergent star Theo James as Sidney Parker, Anne Reid as the stern, monied and determined Lady Denham, and Jack Fox – who worked with Davies on Mr Selfridge – as Edward Denham. 

The show will also feature Austen’s first and, therefore, only black character, who is described in the novel as a young heiress from the West Indies, and is played by Crystal Clarke.

Is there a trailer?

Yes! It’s just been released and introduces us to the seaside setting, as well as the main characters. 

When will Sanditon air?

The first episode of the ITV series will air at 9pm on Sunday August 25.

Image: ITV

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Aiden Wynn

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