Jane Austen’s sardonic humour lays bare the stratagems, the hypocrisy and the poignancy inherent in the struggles of two very different sisters to achieve respectability.
Sense and Sensibility is a delightful comedy of manners in which the sisters Elinor and Marianne represent the two qualities. Elinor’s character is one of Augustan detachment, while Marianne, a fervent disciple of the Romantic Age, learns to curb her passionate nature in the interests of survival.
This book, the first of Austen’s novels to be published, remains as fresh a cautionary tale today as it ever was.
First published: 1811
Sense and Sensibility is the third book by Jane Austen that I’ve read, the first two being Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park. While I loved Pride and Prejudice, I did not like Mansfield Park, so I had no clue whatsoever about what my feelings towards Sense & Sensibility would be. But I enjoyed it! Not as much as I did P&P, though.
The contrast between Elinor and Marianne was very clear and I liked that they got on so well despite their obvious differences. I related most to Elinor and her logical, clear-headed way, but both girls were a bit too much in either the sense or the sensibility department – which is of course exactly the point. None of the characters were entirely likeable to me, which made it hard to really connect with them.
Partly because of this it took me a while to get into the story, but I think this also had to do with the fact that the story was simply quite slow at the beginning and only really got going over halfway through. What I did like is that I had no idea how it was going to end, which kept me interested in the story. Similar to P&P, the back stories of some of these characters are pivotal to the plot, and Austen manages to keep them hidden for just the right amount of time.
While the ending wasn’t entirely satisfactory me, it did make sense in terms of what the novel set out to do. All in all, I don’t have all that many thoughts about this novel. Admittedly, this also has to do with the fact that I read it over a month ago and have kind of forgotten my thoughts after reading it… I’m going to interpret that as meaning that it was enjoyable but not very much more than that.
The characters aren’t very memorable and neither is the plot, but I did enjoy Austen’s sharp observations and her writing overall. I have Emma and Northanger Abbey waiting for me on my shelves, and I definitely still want to read them because I think Jane Austen is really fascinating. If you like her work, I’d recommend reading Sense & Sensibility, but if you’ve never read a novel by her I’d suggest starting with Pride & Prejudice.
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