Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

From Amazon:

Though not the first novel she wrote, Sense and Sensibility was the first Jane Austen published. Though she initially called it Elinor and Marianne, Austen jettisoned both the title and the epistolary mode in which it was originally written, but kept the essential theme: the necessity of finding a workable middle ground between passion and reason. The story revolves around the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. Whereas the former is a sensible, rational creature, her younger sister is wildly romantic--a characteristic that offers Austen plenty of scope for both satire and compassion. Commenting on Edward Ferrars, a potential suitor for Elinor's hand, Marianne admits that while she "loves him tenderly," she finds him disappointing as a possible lover for her sister:
Oh! Mama, how spiritless, how tame was Edward's manner in reading to us last night! I felt for my sister most severely. Yet she bore it with so much composure, she seemed scarcely to notice it. I could hardly keep my seat. To hear those beautiful lines which have frequently almost driven me wild, pronounced with such impenetrable calmness, such dreadful indifference!
Soon however, Marianne meets a man who measures up to her ideal: Mr. Willoughby, a new neighbor. So swept away by passion is Marianne that her behavior begins to border on the scandalous. Then Willoughby abandons her; meanwhile, Elinor's growing affection for Edward suffers a check when he admits he is secretly engaged to a childhood sweetheart. How each of the sisters reacts to their romantic misfortunes, and the lessons they draw before coming finally to the requisite happy ending forms the heart of the novel. Though Marianne's disregard for social conventions and willingness to consider the world well-lost for love may appeal to modern readers, it is Elinor whom Austen herself most evidently admired; a truly happy marriage, she shows us, exists only where sense and sensibility meet and mix in proper measure.

This book definitely took some time getting into. I really wasn't very intrigued to read it and I have had difficulties getting past the first page previously, but since I own both a hard copy and an ebook copy I felt the need to read it at last. I've also read Pride and Prejudice and Emma so I thought that I should read some more of Austen's work. As I said, it really took me a while to get into it. I actually own the movie version of this with Emma Thomson and Kate Winslet and thought the movie was good so picking up the book again I knew what the plot was. Knowing the plot and knowing that I like it I thought I would be able to finish the book this time, which I did. The plot was really good, however I found a lot of parallels with Pride and Prejudice. In the movie they seem different but the way that Austen writes her books give you a much more in-depth view of someone's character and I found that Marianne and Colonel Brandon's love was too similar to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's. Elinor and Edward Ferrars' love is also much too similar to Jane and Bingley's. If you haven't read Pride and Prejudice then this means absolutely nothing to you. The characters were well done as well, but I always find Austen tells too much of her characters' characteristics rather than showing. The pace of the book was also really good, not too fast and not too slow. In the end the characters all got what they deserved. Willoughby was also too similar to Wickham. I found that I didn't quite feel as strongly about these characters as I did in Emma and Pride and Prejudice, which was rather unfortunate. The only real difference between Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility is the title of the book, as well as character names. Overall I think this book was very well done, however it's not my favourite by Jane Austen. 

Quote of the day: "It is not everyone," said Elinor, "who has your passion for dead leaves." - Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility