Really, how does anyone critique Jane Austen? I first read Sense and Sensibility in college, and I enjoyed it then, but not as much as Persuasion or Emma. After the second reading, my preference for her latter work remains.
I decided to re-read Sense and Sensibility in order to refresh my memory of the story before reading Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (review coming soon).
Sense and Sensibility is the story of Mrs. Dashwood, a recent widow, and her three daughters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret. Elinor, the eldest daughter, is the sensible one, choosing to remain reserved and aloof, leaving an air of mystery in her feelings toward Edward Ferrars, regardless of the undeniable connection. Marianne, on the other hand, is emotional and dramatic, wearing her heart on her sleeve and holding nothing back when she sees her Willoughby, a man who seems just as enthusiastic and emotional, yet is suspicious for being so. Marianne ignores poor Colonel Brandon, another sensible man, yet one who is much more dependable and trustworthy. Change, surprise and twists occur, of course, threatening the happy ending of the two Miss Dashwoods.
I couldn't help but gain much more the second time around, as I did with my second reading of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Did I get more out of the book because I'm older and have experienced more? Is my reading at my own pace, instead of squeezing it in before the next frat party, lending to my appreciation of Austen's language and prose? Or am I simply more aware of the subtle social commentary Jane Austen extends to her readers, appreciating her play on words? I would have to say all of the above.
There is no way I could have appreciated just how clever Jane Austen was when I was younger. Paying particular attention to the scenes with the supporting characters, like Fanny and especially Mrs. Jennings, I found myself truly becoming absorbed in the story and its rhythm. You could just feel how uncomfortable Elinor was when Mrs. Jennings and Sir John were in the room!