Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Library Happenings – Austen, Forster adaptations coming to PBS this month

By Angie Georgeff

Happy 2020! This brand new year will end the decade with a Leap Day, the Constitutionally-mandated 2020 decennial census, the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, and the 2020 elections. And yes, I did say end the decade. Because we count from one to 10, 2011 started the current decade. Therefore, 2020 will end it, just as 2001 began the current century and 2100 will bring it to a close. Regardless of how you choose to look at it, this should be a very interesting year.

Since the joy and excitement of Christmas has passed, taking most of my enthusiasm for winter with it, I am looking forward to quieter and more homely pursuits. Masterpiece on PBS often turns to classic novels for inspiration for their January lineup. Adaptations of E. M. Forster’s “Howards End” and Jane Austen’s unfinished “Sanditon” will lead off 2020, with both series premiering Jan. 12.

Howards End

The titular Howards End is an old red brick house in the English countryside. The dwelling is small but charming and its setting is positively idyllic. It doesn’t quite seem to be the kind of place where the affluent and self-important Wilcox family would choose to live, but they love it.  After meeting the English Schlegel sisters on holiday in Germany, Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox invite Helen to visit them in the country. There Helen meets their youngest son Paul and immediately falls in love with him. Just as suddenly, the impetuous engagement is broken, but the fates of the two families have already become inextricably intertwined.


“Sanditon” was Jane Austen’s final novel, in which Charlotte Heywood finds adventure, love, friendship, and pitfalls when she visits a seaside town whose leading citizens hope to make it a fashionable resort. Austen began writing it on Jan. 27, 1817, stopped writing on March 18 and died on July 18. She was only 41, but she left a legacy of six major novels that are at least as popular today as they were 200 years ago. She also left behind a bit more than 11 chapters of “Sanditon.”

I am as rabid as any Austen fan, so of course I have read the six major novels, and nearly every other word she wrote that I could lay my hands on. That includes “Sanditon” as completed by “Another Lady” in 1998. For Masterpiece, the gentleman who has finished Austen’s story is the noted screenwriter Andrew Davies who brought the 1995 Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth version to television. The novelization of the “Sanditon” which Austen envisioned and Davies realized is coauthored by Kate Riordan. That book has already been added to our collection, so you may jump the gun and read the novel if you can’t bear to wait for the series.