Monday, 10 September 2012

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility is the first Austen I've ever read 'blind', that is with no prior knowledge of the story.  With Pride and Prejudice I had seen the BBC adaptation first and with Emma I was already a massive fan of Clueless so it wasn't hard to pick things up.  But Sense and Sensibility was a blank slate and honestly, it was kind of scary.  Give me a Russian epic any day of the week but Austen intimidates me with all her wit that I don't always notice.

Sense and Sensibility is at heart a story about two sisters, Elinor and Marianne.  Elinor is the sense, Marianne the sensibility (impulsive and emotional).  During the course of the story they are both jilted by men they love and the bulk of the novel deals with their differing reactions.  Marianne falls desperately in love with Willoughby from the moment she meets him and they court very publicly with everyone expecting an engagement, only for Willoughby to run off with a richer woman.  Marianne's grief and despair are not hidden.  Elinor's story is a quieter one as she has fallen in love with a family friend, Edward Ferrars.  Unfortunately, he is already engaged to Lucy Steele and feels honour bound to marry her.  Elinor's heartbreak is no less than Marianne's but her expression of it more subdued.  As they both find their way again, the differing reactions of the two sisters are contrasted.

I guess most women are an Elinor or Marianne and I'm definitely an Elinor.  I do feel things deeply but I'm an intensely private person to the extent that my husband would be the only one to know if I was suffering or upset.  I am an expert at covering up my feelings, getting on with things and not losing my head even if I might feel like it.  Self-control is practically my middle name!  So I really felt for Elinor in the story - even though she feels very deeply she hides it well, meaning that she is often overlooked as everyone rushes to take care of Marianne.  There's one passage that struck a particular chord with me; Elinor is berating Marianne for not confiding in her and Marianne replies;

"Nay, Elinor, this reproach from you - you who have confidence in no one!"

It struck a chord because this is me - I tend not to tell other people my problems as I don't want to be a burden to them.  This can lead to me being perceived as distant or aloof, when really I just hate to inconvenience others by going on about myself.  Of course, what I (and Elinor) forget is that sometimes, people want to show you they care by helping you, and they can't do that if you don't open up to them in the first place.  As I so closely identified with Elinor, I was cheering for her when she finally showed her emotions to her sister and was satisfied with the ending she received. 

That's not to say I didn't enjoy Marianne's story.  I've always been a bit jealous of the Mariannes of the world, people who are free and unselfconscious and open - I'll never be like that.  Marianne was full of spirit and very alive.  I liked that she didn't give a damn what people thought about her and that she did as she pleased.  Although Marianne did have some growing up to do in the story, I wasn't fully satisfied with her ending.   *SPOILER* It was almost as if she was brow-beaten into marrying Colonel Brandon because her family wanted her to, not because she loved him.  They both deserved better.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed Sense and Sensibility, I still prefer Pride and Prejudice and Emma.  However, I can still see myself reading this many times in the future and getting more out of it each time.  There are three more Austens for me to experience and I can't wait.


This is the third book I've read for the Classics Club.
Progress: 3/72

Source: Personal copy
First Published: 1811
My Edition: Penguin Classics, 2008
Score: 4.5 out of 5

48 comments:

  1. I loved S & S but haven't read P & P yet. It must be spectacular to be even better than this one.

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    1. P & P will always have a special place in my heart as it was my first Jane Austen, it might not be as great for everyone else.

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  2. I was just signing in because I felt like I hadn't seen a review from you in ages. That could definitely be more me than you, but glad to see this! I've never read this but I've seen the movie too many times to count. It so beautifully contains a dashing man arriving on horseback, in the rain, to rescue young and injured Marianne. My boyfriend actually laughed out loud during that particular scene (I haven't convinced him to watch another since). Haha. It's a great film though. I'll admit that Austen intimidates me as well because sometimes I feel like I don't understand bits and pieces of the conversation. Perhaps that's remedied by reading more. To date, I've only accomplished Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice.

    Great to see you moving right through the Classics Club list! I need to get on it.

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    1. Beth, that's because my reading is sloooooow at the moment! I've not seen the movie but I'm excited to now I've finally read the book. Willoughby is certainly dashing towards Marianne! I'm getting better at understand all of the quips in Austen but I'm sure some are going over my head.

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  3. from what you describe, Sense and Sensibility seems to sound better than P&P. I'm into a hundred pages of P&P, perhaps I haven't read this book "blind" so I am a little underwhelmed by it.

    I'm quite the opposite, I share problems with my friends as I can't bear keeping it inside as it feels like eating me away. In return people open up to me and that's the way I learnt about the world and lives of people around me. Being objective and level headed does has its virtue though. While the rest of us is faffing around, it will be nice to have someone like you to put things in perspective! :)

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    1. I love P&P so I am biased. S&S has a fantastic storyline but there's something about the writing that makes it not as good as P&P for me.

      I could learn from you Jo! When I do share problems people are of course understanding and kind and helpful but I still don't do it enough.

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  4. This isn't one of my favourite Austen novels but I still enjoyed it. I'm definitely more of an Elinor than a Marianne too! I did like both of the sisters though, and I was disappointed with the way Marianne's story ended - I agree that she deserved better.

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    1. I wonder which is more common, Mariannes or Elinors?

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  5. It's been oer ten years since I've read this one, but I think it was my favorite of Austen's after P&P. At this point I'm more familiar with the fine movie adaptation and I'd recommend it to you now that you've read it. Of course, Alan Rickman as colonel Brandon might help Marianne's ending up with him to be more understandable. :)

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    1. P&P is my fave too but I did have a soft spot for Emma, even though I know she irritates a lot of people. I plan to watch the movie soon, although sadly Alan Rickman is now Professor Snape to me, which kind of ruins him as a romantic hero!

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  6. I know what you mean about Marianne settling for Brandon, and I like to think that there was more to Colonel Brandon than met the eye ;-) I started watching the BBC version of S & S today that just came out a couple of years ago. I love the version with Emma Thompson :) It won't disappoint you! Also, I've read the same Austens as you.. Which one do you want to read next? I really need to re-read Emma. It has been a long time.

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    1. I like to think that too, I do feel that Brandon was more impulsive than he let on but still, she was so different from Marianne. I've had so many recommendations for the movie, I must watch it soon.

      I think I'll try Persuasion next, apparently it's the most mature? Although Northanger Abbey sounds more light and fun.

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    2. Just popping in to see what you're reading :-) I think I've made too many reading plans. I see why you try to avoid that! Its like the only thing I can be spontaneous about is my reading and now I'm planning it...its so tempting in October though. But after that, I'm not making definite plans (I hope)!

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  7. I have S&S on my Classics Club list as well as it's been so long since I last read it. I'm pretty sure I didn't appreciate it as much as I could have that first go around, largely because I've never felt I could relate to either Elinor or Marianne. Glad to see you enjoyed the story!

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    1. You're lucky if you're in the middle of Marianne and Elinor, I wish I was so balanced :P

      I hope you enjoy the story more on your second read.

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  8. I plan to re-read this one next year along with the other Austen novels. It's been many years since I've first read it, and like you, I enjoyed it, but not as much as P&P, Emma, and Persuasion (which is my favorite...for the moment!). Great review!

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    1. I'm working through the Austens, I have three left so I'll spread them out so they last as long as possible. I have a feeling I will enjoy Persuasion, love the sound of the story.

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  9. I feel like I'm a lot like Elinor, too. But then, I really related to the shyness and awkwardness of Edward, also. He made me laugh!
    This is the only Austen I've read so far...I really loved it and plan to read P&P when I'm finished with all the other reading I signed up for this fall.

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    1. Yes, there's one bit where Edward says that because he is so shy, people think he's aloof and rude - I could relate to that part!

      P&P is a great read, my favourite Austen (so far).

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  10. Sense and Sensibility is probably my least favorite Austen novel. It's that or Mansfield Park. I like them both, but they both pale in comparison to her others. The other four compete for first place, usually whichever one I've read most recently takes the top spot. :)
    I too am an Elinor. My husband and I just talked recently about how I often appear aloof to other people. I often come across as snobby, but it's just that I don't share much about myself and am quite happy spending time alone. I didn't really like the ending either. I feel like I've seen a film version and was bored, but I don't remember Alan Rickman so I either was not paying close attention or have not actually watched it. :) It was a long time ago, so it had to have been that version if I did in fact watch it. I love all four of the actors in that version now, so perhaps it's time for a re-watch (first watch?)!

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    1. I'm excited to read Persuasion and Northanger Abbey as you liked them so much :) I think S & S is clearly a first novel, you can tell it in the writing.

      We sound very similar. I too don't share too much (although I'm a good listener) and am happy with my own company. If I spend too long around others, I feel the need to have some alone time for a while. I've not seen the movie so am looking forward to it now I have read the book.

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  11. I love this novel. "Persuasion" is my favorite Austen, but S&S often takes second or third place. I mostly love the relationship between the sisters. I like to think of it as a (maybe extreme) depiction of the relationship between Jane and her sister Cassandra. There are similarities in Jane and Elizabeth Bennet as well. Jane Bennet too keeps feelings very well hidden (so much so that Darcy convinces himself she's not in love with Bingley) - and from her letters Jane Austen does seem as if she's a bit too quick with her judgement and wit, and impulsive with her own feelings. She seems like the sassier sister of the two :P

    I agree with you about Brandon, though. Not in the sense that I think Marianne was brow-beaten into settling for him - but I can see how it could come across that way. That part doesn't feel genuine enough - it seems as if Austen really glossed over it too quickly for anyone to believe without a doubt that Marianne fell in love with Brandon in her own time, and on her own terms. The 2008 adaptation manages to capture Marianne's growing feelings for Brandon quite well I think - but in comparison with the rest of the plot Marianne and Brandon's ending is always a little flimsy to me.

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    1. The relationship between the sisters was something I enjoyed too, especially as I have an older sister myself. Now that you mention it, I can see the links between the S&S girls and Jane/Elizabeth from P&P. I can imagine Jane as a Marianne.

      I agree the ending was too quick, I wanted to see Marianne fall in love with Brandon so that I could believe it.

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  12. It's so great when you really relate to a character in a book you are enjoying. I read this one in college, but I didn't remember it too well. Perhaps this year is the time to re-read some Austen. :)

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    1. It's always a good time to read Austen! :P

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  13. I adore this book. I absolutely agree about Marianne's ending. (And I'm a Marianne, by the way. I really respect you Elinors.) :)

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    1. I think the Mariannes and Elinors of the world have a lot to learn from each other. If only I could be more in the middle...

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  14. I'm an Elinor too! :)

    I really loved her, and I found, after reading S&S that I had a better insight into Jane Bennet of P&P. On re-reading the latter I realised that Jane was a favourite, far more than was Elizabeth. In fact. I think Elizabeth got a bit on my nerves on this 6th reading!

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    1. Agreed on the links between Jane and Elinor, although I think Elinor is more believable as she's not so overly kind and contented. I love Elizabeth but I find her harder to relate to as she's nothing like me. I do admire her spirit though.

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  15. I'm also an Elinor but I love reading about the Mariannes of the world too. This is why fiction is so good for us, I think. It gives us perspective into one another's personalities in a way we normally wouldn't have.

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    1. That's true - and I suspect the Mariannes probably get up to the best adventures!

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  16. It was a pleasure to read your review, Sam. You know how much I appreciate Jane Austen's work. I'm an Elinor too but always sympathize with Marianne. I'm so sorry for her.
    I like Sense and Sensibility, but I can't tell you if more or less than other Austen novels. They are all precious to me.

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    1. I love your Jane Austen blog, it always reminds me to make time to read the Austens I haven't started yet.

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  17. I'm really looking forward to reading this, and more Austen in general - as I've only read P&P thus far. -Sarah

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    1. P&P was my first too. I read Emma next and loved it almost as much. After finishing this, I'm excited that I still have 3 brand new books to go.

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  18. Although not my favorite Austen, I really enjoyed S&S. Last spring my book club selected a 'modern retelling' called The Three Weissmann's Westport by Cathleen Schine. I don't usually enjoy that type of thing, but this one was quite clever. For the record, I'm an Elinor, too.

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    1. The Three Weissmann's Wesport is now on my wishlist, I hadn't heard of it before so thanks for the recommendation :)

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  19. I'm preeeetty jealous that you have 3 'new' Austens to experience! So glad you liked this though- I just generally think she's wonderful, but Sense and Sensibility is (probably) in my top 3 Austens :)

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    1. I'm excited to have 3 left, Laura. I'm going to have to spread them out so I can look forward to reading them for a bit longer.

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  20. Sense & Sensibility was the first Austen I read so I have a fondness for it. I'm an Elinor too. :-) Glad you enjoyed it!

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  21. Excellent review, Sam. P & P is on my list, but not S & S. I just my add it. I am a Marrianne through and through. :-) Thanks for sharing

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  22. This is my favorite Jane Austen novel -- I've enjoyed several film adaptations, too. Great review, Sam! I really liked the personal angle. I think I'm a mix of Elinor and Marianne -- my reactions to my emotions fluctuates over time.

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  23. It's always nice to meet a fellow Elinor, it just seems that most people identify themselves with Marianne. Of course, it was Austen's point to make both sisters appear somewhat extreme, making even Elinor a little bit too private and composed than I would be in reality. I agree with you on Marianne + Colonel Brandon. That match was not a very satisfying one.

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  24. I'm the same - I prefer Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey because it's delightfully catty at times.

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  25. I do really like those clothblound editions. I think I've seen versions of all the Austen books and it does shape your perception a lot. Maybe I should try reading one of the ones I've seen redone the least!

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  26. I think Jane was an Elinor too, and her novels always seem to disparage silly emotional girls and root for the internalized, unrequited love. My favorite evidence of this is Persuasion. I hope you also read Becoming Jane Austen. I just realized that I don't have most Austen novels listed as read in GoodReads so I have work to do! By the way, I love the movie version of Sense and Sensibility. Emma Thompson plays Elinor so well, and I will never forget the scene where she won't say she loves him, but that she "esteems him." I've done that so many times!

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  27. It's clearly not my all time favorite Pride and Prejudice but still one of the best Jane Austen's. I can't seem to read a JA, the effort to understand the period writing is more concentration than I want to commit, so I listen to them, and they are all wonderful so far. I recommend reading the book summary from Sparknotes, makes it easier to follow and remember all of the characters.

    Irene (Andean, Inc.)

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  28. "Sense and Sensibility" is an emotionally powerful, beautifully written tale about two very different sisters, and the rocky road to finding a lasting love. Not as striking as "Pride and Prejudice," but still a deserving classic.

    simplisafe 2 review

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