"The source of the Alteration was unknown and unknowable, but Mr. Dashwood held an eccentric theory: that there was discoverable, in some distant corner of the globe, the headwaters of a noxious stream that fed a virulent flow into every sea, every lake and estuary, poisoning the very well of the world. It was this insalubrious stream (went Henry Dashwood's hypothesis), which had affected the Alteration; which had turned the creatures of the ocean against the people of the earth; which made even the tiniest darting minnow and the gentlest dolphin into aggressive, blood-thirsty predators, hardened and hateful towards our bipedal race; which had given foul birth to whole new races of man-hating, shape-shifting ocean creatures, sirens and sea witches and mermaids and mermen; which rendered the oceans of the world naught but great burbling salt-cauldrons of death."
And thus begins the twisted tale of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. The classic Jane Austen book gets turned upside down, like a capsized boat, in this crazy tale of love in the late eighteenth century, amidst the horror of sea creatures seemingly looking for the destruction of mankind.
The book follows the familiar story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, two sisters displaced from their home after the death of their father. They are at the right age for marrying and are looking for worthy suitors, yet with the romantic ideals of finding true love in the bargain. Not only are these girls very pretty but Elinor is an accomplished whittler of driftwood and Marianne can play, on her pianoforte, a sea-faring shanty like no other.
The co-author, Ben H. Winter, maintains the feel of Austen's original version while expanding the readers knowledge of marine biological terms and creating such scenarios that only a truly twisted mind could come up with. The aquatic theme brings sheer silliness to the events experienced by the sisters, from Marianne's meeting Willoughby as a result of a giant octopus attack to Edward riding up on the back of a dolphin (a fairly common mode of transportation).
Winter seamlessly sews in the thread of an altered society with side-stitching humour that has you chuckling with every page.
I have loved Jane Austen from the first time I saw the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice, then actually buying the book to read, which I've done every year since (I've yet to read Sense and Sensibility but have seen the movie several times). I'm not sure whether she would approve of this variation on her classic work but I whole-heartedly do!