Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Book Tour Stops Here: Sense & Sensibility by Joanna Trollope with Raspberry Yogurt Fool

What happens when you pack up the characters of a much beloved novel, published in 1811, and move them lock, stock and barrel to today's social-media and celebrity gossip ridden times? Joanna Trollope answers the question when she takes on Jane's Austen's classic novel Sense and Sensibility and gives it a modern re-telling. In Trollope's updated Sense & Sensibility, the storyline stays the same; John Dashwood makes a deathbed promise to his father that he will care for his stepmother and three half-sisters. With his wife's constant prodding however, that promise falls flat and the Dashwood women find themselves unwelcome guests in what was their home, and left without the security and lifestyle that they are used to. Relocated to a tiny country cottage, the burdens of the family fall on sensible Elinor, while emotional Marianne's sensibilities are tested by a passionate love and betrayal. 

I am a Jane Austen lover and fan of (well-written) variations of Austen's work--although I usually gravitate toward the Pride and Prejudice ones as it is my favorite of her novels. I was curious to see how well Trollope was able to modernize the story, while staying true to the original and overall I think she did a good job given the challenges of making the values and mores of society in the late 1700's relevant to today. Not an easy task. The basic personalities of the characters remain the same and this was a bit problematic. It's easy to understand the constraints placed on women's lives a few hundred years ago when inheritances were passed on to males and a young woman or man needed to make a smart match to secure their lives--a time when a broken engagement or an impulsive act could bring ruin on an entire family. When looked at from today's standards, the behaviors and lack of maturity and common sense made my frustration level with most of the characters rise. Marianne's immaturity and impetuousness while still somewhat annoying, can be more easily accepted based on her age and the time period in Austen's novel. In this book, even allowing for the health issues brought on by her severe and chronic asthma (smart touch), I just wanted to smack her--constantly and hard, and tell her to grow up. Edward's refusal to break his engagement with Lucy, honorable in the original--just seems stupid and makes him weak and spineless here. I actually spent most of the book hoping that Elinor and Colonel ("Bill") Brandon would defy the original plot line, dump the 'losers' and just fall in love with each other. Even my favorite Elinor needs a shake and maybe a few Xanax to boot, as stoic and steady in the original seems like clinical depression here. In today's age, the Dashwood women (and Edward) really needed to pull their 'big-girl panties' up and become productive members of society--college loans, career placement services, a stint as a barista--whatever it takes to survive in their new reality. 

Hardcover: 384 pages Publisher: Harper (October 29, 2013)

Still, I think that staying so true to the original storyline in such different times was admirable of Trollope and while it may not have completely worked, it made for entertaining reading. The dialogue had wit and humor and it was fun to see how Trollope updated the various characters lives--I love that Colonel Brandon did his 'good works' by establishing a rehab center for soldiers and addicts. My favorite part of the updating was the humorous impact of modern communication on the characters and story--all the texting, tweeting, emailing, etc. A scene at a gathering where Marianne is rebuffed by Willoughby is a simple encounter that would have just caused a few raised eyebrows in the original story but, in this adaptation, it becomes a complete Marianne 'meltdown' that appears all over YouTube. 

Although, this book wasn't a complete love for me simply because the story doesn't have quite the same impact in modern times, it was both fun and engaging. It also caused me to reread Austen's classic--something I haven't done in a few years, and to watch it on Netflix (the 2008 BBC mini-series)--a little extra Jane immersion is never a bad thing. ;-) Jane Austen purists might look askance, but if you like a bit of modern fluffy fun worked into your Austen, or if you just enjoy a breezy and clever modern-day romance, you will like this one. You can check out what other bloggers on this TLC Book Tour had to say about Trollope's Sense & Sensibility here

Author Notes: Joanna Trollope is the #1 bestselling author of eighteen novels, including The Soldier’s Wife, Daughters-in-Law, Friday Nights, The Other Family, Marrying the Mistress, and The Rector’s Wife. Her works have been translated into more than twenty-five languages and several have been adapted for television. She was appointed to the Order of the British Empire in 1996 for her services to literature, and served as the Chair of Judges for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012. She lives in London and Gloucestershire.

For my dish inspired by the book, there is a sufficient amount of food and drink worked into the story--much of it comfort food like chamomile tea, macaroni and cheese, roasted potatoes, apple crumble... There's even a buffet with catered dishes by Ottolenghi. (Having just spent six months cooking weekly Yotam Ottolenghi recipes with I Heart Cooking Clubs, I loved that modern cultural reference.

At the beginning of the book, Belle (Mrs.) Dashwood is picking raspberries in the fruit cage at Norwood when greedy Fanny, with no interest in raspberries other than feeling that they, along with everything else at Norland Park belong to her, confronts her about Edward's interest in Elinor. Raspberries stuck in my head and I could think of no better way to use them than in a fool, as more than one character in the book is at least a tad foolish at times, if not constantly. ;-) Fools, an English dessert, were made traditionally by folding pureed stewed fruit (classically gooseberries) into a sweet custard. Nowadays, whipped cream usually takes the place of the custard and having recently enjoyed the whipped cream/Greek yogurt combination in Donna Hay's Passionfruit (Lilikoi) and Yogurt Parfaits, I decided to morph the mixture into a modernized Raspberry Yogurt Fool. A little alcohol never hurts, so I added in a bit of framboise (raspberry liquor) for extra flavor.   

Raspberry Yogurt Fool
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen, with inspiration from Donna Hay
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups whipping cream 
2 cups Greek-style natural yogurt 
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted 
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen raspberries + extra fresh raspberries to garnish if desired
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp Framboise (raspberry liquor)
Fresh mint to garnish (optional)

Whip cream in a large mixing bowl soft peaks form. 

Place raspberries, vanilla and framboise in a food processor or mini chop and pulse until mostly blended, with small chunks remaining. Gently fold the Greek yogurt and raspberry puree through the whipped cream until combined. 

Place mixture in dessert glasses or bowls. Refrigerate until chilled. Garnish with fresh raspberries and mint to serve.

Notes/Results: Cool and creamy + fruit and alcohol are a winning combination in my book. The yogurt and cream make for a nice balance of fluffy and dense and the framboise adds that extra punch of raspberry flavor. Not too sweet, it's a nice and elegant little dessert or snack. I will make it again.

Note: A review copy of "Sense & Sensibility" was provided by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.   


  1. Pam Armstrong GreerNovember 14, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    Sounds like one I might like! I made a soup for Sunday, I posted it on Monday.

  2. I love your honest review!! I can't really imagine Austen working in a modern setting...there are too many social nuances that we just don't have anymore and wouldn't make sense no matter how you twist it.

  3. Fools are among my favourite desserts, so I am very happy to see this! My favourite "updated" Austen is of course Clueless, but as an alternative telling of the story I read Longbourn a few months ago and absolutely loved it.

  4. Wow, that looks absolutely delicious! I'm glad that you enjoyed this book even though it wasn't quite perfect for you. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  5. I thought this was so interesting, because I've read about fools in books so many times but really had no idea at all what they were!


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