Sanditon is unique among Jane Austen's novels in that it was never actually finished; it is therefore up to the reader to decide what might ultimately happen to the characters they have come to know within it, and to try to create the novel's conclusion in the fashion of its author. Austen completed eleven chapters of the book before illness prevented her from writing any more.
The novel tells the story of Charlotte Heywood, eldest of the Heywood daughters still living at home, and her summer trip to the seaside town of Sanditon which her host, Mr Parker, hopes to make into a fashionable tourist resort. The town is populated with the usual array of Austen characters, and its themes include Austen's much-traveled focus on the need of a young woman to further her social standing through marriage, and her broader critiques of the landed gentry.
It is believed that Sanditon, although fictional, is heavily based upon Worthing, a real-life English coastal town slightly west of Brighton, because it is a place that Austen visited, although the character of Mr Parker is based on the founder of another seaside town, Bognor Regis, Richard Hotham. This unfinished novel was one of three to be published posthumously; the others, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were written before Austen began work on Sanditon. Another unfinished novel, The Watsons, was published after her death, but there were only five chapters, due to the fact that Austen had abandoned it after the death of her father, and never returned to it.
Jane Austen's books have not been out of print since their publication, and when sales seemed slow, in the period shortly after her death, her publisher released them as a boxed set which seemed to generate more sales. A second resurgence in sales occurred when her novels began to be adapted for the big screen. The best known adaptation has been the 1995 movie version of Emma, the screenplay for which was written by British actress Emma Thompson, a screenplay for which she went on to win an Oscar.