Posts Tagged ‘Colonel Brandon’

Book Review by Brenda S. Cox

“I have had ample time to consider the difference between my former, naïve ideas of love and happiness, and the more mature and accurate view of them I now possess. I find that my opinions are quite transformed. How differently I feel about everything now! – about what I want, about what will make me happy.”—Marianne Dashwood in the last chapter of Colonel Brandon in His Own Words

Colonel Brandon is a bit mysterious. He has a tragic past, which we only see in glimpses. Readers sometimes think he is too serious for Marianne, and we don’t see much of their courtship or love story. Movies add some of this in, but not enough, in my opinion.

Colonel Brandon in His Own Words, by Shannon Winslow, fills in the blanks about Brandon’s background, his connections with both Eliza’s, and his romance with Marianne.

So, I loved reading Colonel Brandon in His Own Words, by Shannon Winslow, which filled in the blanks and brought Brandon more to life for me. The story is consistent with Sense and Sensibility, but adds new insights to the novel.

Sometimes I hesitate to read a parallel Austen story, thinking I will already know everything in it since I know the novel so well. But this time each page brought something new. Even when familiar incidents were included, from Brandon’s perspective, I sometimes had to go back to S&S and check—was it really like that? And it was.

I asked the author to tell us more about why she wrote this book, and what she loved about writing it. Here’s what she shared with us:

Shannon Winslow’s Thoughts on Colonel Brandon in His Own Words

If you’re unfamiliar with my work, the first thing you should know is that I’m a little different – probably in a lot of ways, but I’m talking about my writing philosophy. It’s different from most other JAFF authors in at least two respects. Let me explain.

First, I love ALL of Jane Austen’s novels. Okay, maybe not equally. Like most people, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite, but they’re ALL worth reading. They’re ALL worthy of our attention. So, early on, I decided I wanted to write at least one novel related to each of Jane Austen’s six. And I’m almost there!

I have Pride and Prejudice covered (The Darcys of Pemberley, Return to Longbourn, The Ladies of Rosings Park, Miss Georgiana Darcy of Pemberley, Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words). I wrote The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen (probably the book of which I’m proudest!) for her fans who wish she’d enjoyed the romance and happy ending she crafted for all her heroines. I count Leap of Hope as my Mansfield Park book (although there’s a lot of P&P in it too). And I have a campy sequel to Northanger Abbey: Murder at Northanger Abbey. Now with Colonel Brandon in His Own Words for Sense and Sensibility, I only have Emma left to go!

The second major difference between me and most other JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction) authors is that I don’t write “variations” per se. I can’t swear that I never will, but so far the books I’ve written expand on (or supplement) Jane Austen’s stories; they don’t change them. So all my books agree with each other and with canon. It’s just the approach that works best for me. I guess I’m sappy enough to believe that there’s one “true story” for the characters I’ve come to know and love, and that’s the one Jane Austen wrote. Adding on (with sequels, minor character stories, etc.) simply allows us to spend more time in their delightful company.

In other words, filling in the blanks Jane Austen left behind is my bread and butter, and there are a LOT of intriguing blanks when it comes to Colonel Brandon. Sense and Sensibility follows Marianne’s and Elinor’s movements primarily, so they are well covered. But there’s quite a bit of time when the men (Edward and Colonel Brandon) are “off camera,” so to speak, creating interesting blanks in the record. Since I really enjoyed writing the first-person, hero’s point of view in my previous book (Fitzwilliam Darcy in His Own Words), I decided to do the same kind of thing for my S&S novel. But should I go with Edward or Colonel Brandon? Hmm.

No contest. In my opinion, Colonel Brandon is not only the more admirable character, he also has the more interesting backstory to work with. There’s so much we don’t know about him, though, and much of what we do happened long before the scope of the original novel. What were his family relationships like? And his sad history with Eliza, which scarred him for life? These things are briefly mentioned in Sense and Sensibility, but we don’t get any details. We don’t see and experience them for ourselves. What about his military years in India? That sounds like a research rabbit hole waiting to be explored. Lots of story potential!

I was also excited to flesh out Brandon’s romance with Marianne, huge portions of which are only hinted at by Jane Austen. She simply didn’t have the time and space to go into their 2-year courtship in any depth, but I did! I cover the day they met, their slow, gentle courtship, the proposal itself (with a very satisfying twist!), and then a brief glimpse into their married life. Everything is from Brandon’s point of view and in His Own Words.

It was such a joy to spend this past year with Colonel Brandon – quiet hero and consummate gentleman – poking around in his head, discovering more about the man, learning what he believes and how he thinks. I love and respect him all the more now! I hope you are a fan as well, or I trust you will be after reading his full story in Colonel Brandon in His Own Words.

More on the Book and the Author

Here’s the cover copy of the book:

Colonel Brandon is the consummate gentleman: honorable, kind almost to a fault, ever loyal and chivalrous. He’s also silent and grave, though. So, what events in his troubled past left him downcast, and how does he finally find the path to a brighter future? In Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen gives us glimpses, but not the complete picture.

Now Colonel Brandon tells us his full story in His Own Words. He relates the truth about his early family life and his dear Eliza – his devotion to her and the devastating way she was lost to him forever. He shares with us a poignant tale from his military days in India – about a woman named Rashmi and how she likewise left a permanent mark on his soul. And of course Marianne. What did Brandon think and feel when he first saw her? How did his hopes for her subsequently rise, plummet, and then eventually climb upwards again. After Willoughby’s desertion, what finally caused Marianne to see Colonel Brandon in a different light?

This is not a variation but a supplement to the original story, chronicled in Brandon’s point of view. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the things Jane Austen didn’t tell us about a true hero – the very best of men.

Shannon Winslow, whose goal is to fill in the blanks Austen left behind.

Shannon Winslow says an ordinary trip to Costco fifteen years ago changed her life when she picked up a copy of the ’95 miniseries of Pride and Prejudice. She’s been hopelessly hooked on all things Jane Austen ever since, her obsession ultimately inspiring her to write her own stories a la Austen. To date, she has authored eleven novels and a Jane Austen Devotional, with no end to her creative output in sight. Her two sons now grown, Shannon lives with her husband in the log home they built in the countryside south of Seattle, where she writes and paints in her studio facing Mr. Rainier. Visit her at her website and follow her on Facebook.

From Brenda again:

I highly recommend Colonel Brandon in His Own Words, especially to read in this year of focusing on Sense and Sensibility. I think it will add to your appreciation of S&S. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did!

Brenda S. Cox writes on Faith, Science, Joy, and Jane Austen. Her book Fashionable Goodness: Christianity in Jane Austen’s England will be out this fall, Lord willing. If you’re interested in faith aspects of the book, see this review. And for Austen news, follow her on Facebook.

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What awful news! Alan Rickman, one of my favorite actors, has died. He will always be Colonel Brandon, in my estimation. The sort of man that mature women want and marry.

I first met Alan as Hans, a dastardly terrorist in Die Hard. With his steely eyes, he was evil incarnate and more than a match for Bruce Willis’s John McClane – until McClane killed him off.

The next time I saw Alan, he played the vile Sheriff of Notthingham with a mullet in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Alan’s accent was real; Kevin Costner’s most certainly was not.

I then saw Alan as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility. Swoon. We first encounter him when he sees and hears Marianne sing. I think I fell in love a little with him then.

He then rescues Marianne from the rain. He did not stagger, although Marianne (ahem) was no lightweight. When Marianne lies abed with fever, he begs Elinor for something to do – an occupation, anything, and so he fetches Marianne’s mother, just in time to see her recover from her fever.

Having shown his sterling character, Marianne is able to see Colonel Brandon’s finer qualities and contrast his character to Willoughby’s. Our fine Colonel then gives Marianne a pianoforte and reads to her – perfect husband material.Sigh.

Alan goes on to play Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films and a cheating husband in Love Actually. This scene with Rowan Atkinson is priceless and still keeps me laughing.

A gifted actor, Alan Rickman graced the stage and screen with his talented presence. You are missed, Mr. Rickman. You will be missed. Rest in peace and thank you for the many years of pleasure you have given me. You must away, and we cannot follow you.

Alan Rickman recites Sonnet 130

To view a catalogue of his work, go to IMBD, Alan Rickman

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The dramatic moments of Marianne’s illness in Ang Lee’s 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility start when Marianne (Kate Winslet) walks in the pouring rain to view Willoughby’s estate, Combe Magna, from atop a hill. The musical strains swell as rivulets of water pour down her face and figure. Then Marianne quotes a Shakespearean Sonnet 116 that Willoughby had read to her in happier days, which she starts with the phrase, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.” One is touched by Marianne’s emotional anguish, which is echoed by the roiling clouds overhead. Kate’s performance tugs at my heartstrings and tears still come to my eyes when I see this scene. Call me a hopeless romantic.

However, the scene is more reminiscent of Wuthering Heights than of a Jane Austen novel. Young Kate Winslet acts out Marianne’s torment so convincingly that one forgets that these are Emma Thompson’s words, not Jane Austen’s. Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) finds Marianne and carries her back in his manly arms. To his credit, he staggers under his load only just before he hands her over to Mr. Palmer and Elinor.

Much anxiety ensues, with the Colonel pacing the halls until he is given ‘employment’, and asked to fetch Mrs. Dashwood, who lives 80 miles away. Unspoken but implied is that he might be too late. Elinor/Emma weeps as she tends to Marianne, the doctor spends the night in a nearby chair, and we are all left in suspense: Will Marianne/Kate survive the night? All this Sturm und Drang is a bit overwrought, but these scenes provide the emotional turning point of this film adaptation.

I first saw the 1995 movie in the theatre just weeks after its premiere. When Marianne was clearly on the mend, I recall feeling as wrung out as Elinor. In case my words seem just a tad facetious (and they are), I adored this film. However, the script of this movie is to a Jane Austen novel what Tex-Mex cuisine is to real Mexican food – there is just enough authenticity to fool one into thinking that one has actually experienced the real thing.

Interestingly, in the most recent 2008 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, written by Andrew Davies, Marianne (Charity Wakefield) also wanders around the gardens of Cleveland in a steady drizzle. She finds shelter under a gazebo, but then she deliberately stands under the rain, welcoming its healing effect. I suppose this ritual cleansing is meant to be symbolic. Weakened from lack of sleep and worry, Marianne succumbs to the chill and faints. She is gone for such a long time, that Colonel Brandon (David Morrissey) goes out to search for her. Riding his white steed (oh, don’t you just love these Jungian-Arthurian-Shakespearean symbols?), he finds her. Then, in a moment I find perplexing, for his trusty horse is standing at the ready, he carries her back to the house. Andrew Davies, please have mercy on the poor horse! While David Morrissey has the physical heft to pull off this scene (and he does deposit Marianne safely in her bed), you have deprived that lovely white steed of its employment. Ellen Moody gave a possible explanation for all this romantic drama in her post. Click here to read it.

Both films have mined Marianne’s illness for its full emotional depth. However, in Jane Austen’s words, the onset of Marianne’s illness is much less dramatic, and Colonel Brandon is nowhere to be seen:

Two delightful twilight walks on the third and fourth evenings of her being there, not merely on the dry gravel of the shrubbery, but all over the grounds, and especially in the most distant parts of them, where there was something more of wildness than in the rest, where the trees were the oldest, and the grass was the longest and wettest, had — assisted by the still greater imprudence of sitting in her wet shoes and stockings — given Marianne a cold so violent, as, though for a day or two trifled with or denied, would force itself by increasing ailments on the concern of everybody, and the notice of herself. Prescriptions poured in from all quarters, and as usual were all declined. Though heavy and feverish, with a pain in her limbs, a cough, and a sore throat, a good night’s rest was to cure her entirely; and it was with difficulty that Elinor prevailed on her, when she went to bed, to try one or two of the simplest of the remedies. Sense and Sensibility, Volume 3, Chapter 6.

Jane then goes on to describe a cold that settles in Marianne’s lungs, and that the doctor declares infectious. The Palmers leave, worried for their newborn baby. For two days Marianne’s situation does not change, and there is hope for a speedy recovery, but by the third day Marianne’s condition worsens and in a feverish delirium she starts calling for her mother. Enter the Colonel:

He, meanwhile, whatever he might feel, acted with all the firmness of a collected mind, made every necessary arrangement with the utmost dispatch, and calculated with exactness the time in which she might look for his return. Not a moment was lost in delay of any kind. The horses arrived, even before they were expected, and Colonel Brandon only pressing her hand with a look of solemnity, and a few words spoken too low to reach her ear, hurried into the carriage. It was then about twelve o’clock, and she returned to her sister’s apartment to wait for the arrival of the apothecary, and to watch by her the rest of the night.

Colonel Brandon leaves to procure Mrs. Dashwood, and Elinor is left alone (with Mrs. Jennings) to nurse Marianne and fret over her condition. Elinor’s suffering is real: “She was calm, except when she thought of her mother; but she was almost hopeless; and in this state she continued till noon, scarcely stirring from her sister’s bed, her thoughts wandering from one image of grief, one suffering friend to another, and her spirits
oppressed to the utmost by the conversation.”

Marianne’s situation is touch and go. The apothecary, Mr. Harris, attempts every remedy at his disposal, and promises to return in a three or four hour interval. In his second visit, he realizes his medicine has failed, and that Marianne’s fever remains unabated. He tries a fresh application of a medication in which he has almost as much confidence as the first, and then he leaves. Elinor spends a restless, sleepless night, worried about her mother, but she forces herself to remain calm.

About noon, however, she began–but with a caution—a dread of disappointment which for some time kept her silent, even to her friend–to fancy, to hope she could perceive a slight amendment in her sister’s pulse;–she waited, watched, and examined it again and again;–and at last, with an agitation more difficult to bury under exterior calmness, than all her foregoing distress, ventured to communicate her hopes.

During these scenes, both Elinor/Emma and Elinor/Hattie are true to Jane’s description of Elinor’s conduct through this long, anxious night. Waiting for the Colonel and her mother, Elinor hears: “The bustle in the vestibule, as she passed along an inner lobby, assured her that they were already in the house. She rushed to the drawing-room,–she entered it,–and saw only Willoughby.”

The Ang Lee film does not include this important scene. Instead, it shows a regretful Willoughby sitting at a distance on his horse, observing Marianne walking from the chapel with her new husband. The new 3-hour S&S adaptation takes the time to address Willoughby’s excuse for his bad behavior and his feelings for Marianne. “I mean to offer some kind of explanation,” he says to Elinor, “some kind of apology, for the past; to open my whole heart to you, and by convincing you, that though I have been always a blockhead, I have not been always a rascal, to obtain something like forgiveness from Ma–from your sister.”

Unlike the novel, the 2008 film shows Marianne eavesdropping. This ending sets the stage for her transformation. Her eyes are opened to Willoughby, allowing her to heal and open her heart to Colonel Brandon. Many find this section of the book implausible. How could someone with Marianne’s romantic nature do the sensible thing and marry the Colonel? Jane describes Marianne’s situation as thus:

Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion, as once she had fondly flattered herself with expecting,–instead of remaining even for ever with her mother, and finding her only pleasures in retirement and study, as afterwards in her more calm and sober judgment she had determined on,– she found herself at nineteen, submitting to new attachments, entering on new duties, placed in a new home, a wife, the mistress of a family, and the patroness of a village.

My sensible self likes to think that a romantically minded 17-year-old can emerge wiser two years later. Marianne not only learned from adversity, but I imagine she will continue to mature and grow throughout her life.

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