Monday, January 11, 2010

Review: Sense and Sensibility

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!

The most difficult part of reading this book was the edition I chose to read.  Instead of grabbing a paperback copy at the book store, I took down my leather-bound Jane Austen: The Complete Novels, Deluxe Edition (Library of Literary Classics).  There was no lugging that thing around with me to the coffee shop!  (Score one for the Kindle)

Now, off to watch the movie...


Amy Brecount White said...

I'm with you on preferring Persuasion (my fave) and Emma to S & S. But still such a wonderful book! I reread them all every few years. :-)

Jaymie said...

I love the movie Sense and Sensibility, but have never read the book. Somehow I missed out on the whole Jane-Austen-girl gene - S&S is the only Austen thing I have liked. But your review made me think it might be time to read the book. Thanks for lugging the leather-bound version around in order to post a review.

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