All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Sense & Sensibility – Jane Austen

on June 11, 2013

Sense & SensibilitySense & Sensibility
Jame Austen
Penguin English Library
2012 (originally 1811), 373p
Read from my TBR pile

Although I often have a somewhat strained relationship with classics, one exception to that rule seems to be Jane Austen. When I was 18 I read four Jane Austen novels for a literature class I took during a course for entry to university – Pride & Prejudice, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park. My university days led to a love of Emma and the BBC adaptation of P&P. On principle I haven’t even bothered to see the film version that was done a few years ago with Keira Knightley. However one novel and adaptation that has constantly escaped me has been Sense & Sensibility. I’ve nearly seen the movie several times, including once earlier this year. I recorded it to the hard drive but then deleted it because I wanted to read the book first. Well, I’ve finally gotten around to reading the book.

The story line is well known: Mr Dashwood passes away and due to the family estate being entailed, it all goes to his son by his first marriage. Having only daughters by his second, he pleads with his son to please do right by them but his son’s selfish wife talks him out of any assistance he may have offered. Mrs Dashwood and her three daughters Elinor who is sensible, Marianne who is romantic and the youngest Margaret take a cottage offered by Sir John Middleton, one of Mrs Dashwood’s relatives and they become integrated into the social lives of the Middletons. There Marianne meets and falls in love with the charming Willoughby who then later jilts her, leaving her heartbroken. Elinor, whilst caring for her devastated sister, is hiding her own pain at learning the object of her affections has been engaged in secret for years so the sisters are both possessed of little money and little prospects. Or so it seems.

I always love the characters in Austen novels and this one was no exception. Elinor is mature and sensible, always correct in her actions and noting of propriety. She has fallen in love with her sister-in-law’s brother and does believe her affections to be returned (indeed, everyone does) but she is often chastised by Marianne for not showing her feelings enough, particularly after it is discovered that Edward Ferrars has been secretly engaged some five years. By contrast Marianne is younger in spirit and impetuous, running on emotion and feeling rather than good sense. When she meets Willoughby, who is very charming, she throws her entire self into the beginnings of a relationship with him and it is generally believed by the locals and family that they will announce their engagement soon. They spend afternoons together alone and it seems that Mrs Dashwood encourages Marianne, rather than advising her to rein herself in. Elinor does wonder at the danger of this behaviour and it seems her fears are not unfounded when Willoughby takes his leave, rendering Marianne devastated with grief. Got to hand it to the girl, when she does something, be it love or heartbreak, she does it with her whole being. She ends up making herself ill and nearly succumbs to a fever later in the novel, due to not taking care of herself.

In her single-mindedness about Willoughby, Marianne overlooks Colonel Brandon, a friend of Sir John Middleton’s who falls in love with her when he sees her. In his mid-thirties, wealthy and unmarried and also intensely honourable, Marianne considers him too old and too boring but Colonel Brandon never wavers in his steadfast devotion to Marianne, always on hand to lend assistance after her heartbreak. He has his own reasons for disliking Willoughby, painting him as even more of a victim than the reader first assumes to Elinor, with whom he chooses to confide. I’ve seen people mention that they believe that the novel should’ve ended with Elinor marrying Colonel Brandon and I think I see some of the point but I do disagree. Marianne is a stunning romantic for sure and she seems like she needs someone who gives her strength and stability as well as undying love and who won’t disappear in search of richer options. I enjoyed watching Brandon continue to remain by her side and although the book doesn’t give you too much about her change in feeling towards him, I could put most of it together in my head. I think that Elinor and Brandon make great friends but ultimately I always believed he was made for Marianne.

There’s a scene in this book where Willougby confesses to Elinor that he did always love Marianne but he had to make a choice about his future and although that is now secure, he isn’t as happy as he feels he would’ve been, had he married Marianne. Willoughby is an enterprising sort of character, the type who uses good looks and charm to always come out smelling like roses even when he has done the most abominable things. I didn’t really feel all that sympathetic towards him because he doesn’t really address with any satisfaction the way in which he treated Brandon’s ward and his only justification for leaving Marianne was money, which was common in those days but still makes him seem like a cad. Especially when you compare his actions with those of Edward Ferrar’s who was willing to sacrifice all of his generous income to fulfill a promise he made years ago to someone he no longer loved, never mind someone that he did love. Maybe I’m just never going to like characters like Willoughby – all charm and little substance. Give me Colonel Brandon anyway, particularly after seeing the 1995 movie version!

In a sea of “classic” books that often make me feel stupid or tired as I struggle to analyse the themes and write a review, I think I can always at least rely on Austen to provide me with a read that entertains me even as she critiques society and its whims. I love her wit and her character observations and interactions. Next up on my Austen list is a re-read of Persuasion and I’m so looking forward to it. It’s been probably 13+ years since I read and I’ve only read it once so it’ll be pretty much like reading it for the first time.

8/10

Book #143 of 2013

classicsclub

Sense & Sensibility is the 9th book read and reviewed for my participation in the Classics Club Challenge. I am behind but I figure I’ve read 9 more classic novels in the past 15 months than I would’ve without this challenge, so I’m making some progress!

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10 responses to “Sense & Sensibility – Jane Austen

  1. Marg says:

    I really need to find some time to read more Austen this year!

  2. Loni says:

    Sense and Sensibility is my favourite Austen. I also thought the movie version was well done. I know what people have said about Elinor and Brandon. I remember thinking the first time I read it that it was a possibility, but I love how it ended.

    • Yes, I love the movie too. When I was reading the book I could kind of see how Elinor & Brandon might end up together but I’d heard some people annoyed that they didn’t so I figured he finally got Marianne lol – at the time I just couldn’t work out how Ferrars came back into it. I definitely agree that it’s the right ending.

  3. Melinda says:

    I have this one on my classics list, I think. Glad you liked it 🙂

  4. I agree that Jane Austen never fails to satisfy. I’m a big fan of the 1995 movie, but haven’t read the book. It’s on my list and I hope to read it this summer. Enjoy Persuasion!

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