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Anne Toledo was born in 1937 to English parents and spent her childhood in wartime and postwar London – she still has vivid memories of air-raids, evacuations and doodlebugs, and of the austerity and optimism of the postwar years. An only child, she grew up as a voracious reader, especially of fiction, and was much influenced by the romantic stories of her godmother, the best-selling novelist Anne Duffield. After boarding-school (Cheltenham Ladies’ College) and an M.A. degree in Classics (Literae Humaniores) at Oxford University, she worked in London for some years in the pre-yuppie world of advertising and market research. Longing for a less competitive and more natural lifestyle, she awarded herself a “sabbatical year” in Italy, with the avowed purpose of learning the language and visiting the country – but while there she met and married her Italian husband, settled in Brescia, not far from Lake Garda, and brought up a family. In the meantime she studied for a second degree in Italy, this time in Modern Languages, as there was as yet no international recognition for foreign degrees. With her Italian degree, she started her career as a teacher, working her way up from evening classes in language schools through high-school teaching to a tenured university post as Research Fellow in English Literature, which took her from Brescia to Verona, then Milan and finally back to Brescia, in the Languages Faculty of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, where she specialized in teaching the nineteenth-century English novel, with particular attention to Jane Austen. Under her maiden name of Leslie-Anne Crowley she has published academic monographs on Langland, Spenser and Marlowe, and articles on Milton, Quarles, Stevie Smith and – naturally - Jane Austen. She retired in 2000 and since then has much enjoyed the freedom to spend time with her husband and grown-up sons, to read and write, and to indulge in such pleasant pastimes as computer games, puzzles of all kinds, and generally pottering. “A Return to Sanditon” is her first venture into fiction, and she enjoyed writing it so much that she is now working on a second Austen completion, this time of “The Watsons”.
on March 07, 2011 :
Sanditon was Jane Austen's last novel, and in fact was never completed. Begun just a few months before her death, the novel stops after only a few short chapters. Almost two hundred years later, Anne Toledo has undertaken completing the novel in the inimitable Austen style. Toledo is not the first to take Austen's setting, her characters and plot and continue them to the logical Austen conclusion. Her `completion' is however the best of the several published in the last 50 years. Toledo has done a magnificent job.
After the first few lines of the `new' chapters, the reader feels she is in good hands, the hands of a master novelist, as if she were truly reading the last of Jane Austen's novels. The style, the almost mathematically balanced quality of the sentence construction, the cadence of the dialogue, the character development, the setting and the ins and outs of the plot ARE Jane Austen.
The setting, as in Austen's later novels, is all important. Sanditon is an English sea resort in the planning and early construction stage. The characters are all in one way or another concerned with making the place successful. Interwoven with this commercial interest, very well researched and seamlessly presented, are the love stories, family conflicts and descriptions of the changing social fabric in England in the early 19th century. Toledo's novel, exactly like all of Jane Austen's complete ones, can be read on many levels.
And it's a fascinating read. We recommend it to all Jane Austen fans.
(reviewed the day of purchase)