Book Review: Sense and Sensibility

I really love Jane Austen’s books – or at least most of them. I did not mean to read two Austen books back-to-back, but I became really disenchanted with the nonfiction bore I kept attempting to finish reading (and I was feeling the “do more of what you love” empowerment) so I threw my reading rules out the window. To be honest though, Sense and Sensibility was not my favorite. I don’t feel that I’m likely to reread it or even recommend the book.

Sense and Sensibility wasn’t the first book that Austen wrote, but it was the first one to be published (in 1811). The novel follows sisters Elinor and Marianne and their trials and tribulations in finding love. Early in the book, they (and their mother and younger sister) are left poor and nearly homeless when their father’s untimely death leaves their family estate of Norland to their older, half-brother John Dashwood. They voluntarily move out (due to their pushy and cheapskate sister-in-law Fanny) and the prospect of new adventures and find a quaint cottage on the property of distant cousins (who happen to be busybody neighbors). Meddling and gossip ensues and before long, love triangles and heartbreak abound.

“She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her conduct, her most favourite maxims.”

Sense and Sensibility (Barnes and Noble Classics, 2004), p.311

My biggest issues with this story had to do with inconsistent character development and a somewhat confusing storyline. I somehow really missed that Elinor was actually in love with her sister-in-law’s brother, Edward until he was all of a sudden not-so-secretly engaged to another woman. The whole beginning of the novel I was convinced that while at Norland, Edward and Elinor were friends who regarded each other with warm friendship, but nothing more. When Sir John and Mrs. Jennings (the overreaching cousins) constantly teased Elinor about Mr. F., I assumed the interchanges were meant to assure the reader of their frivolous shallowness based on gossip from a 14-year-old. The amount of unnecessary teasing would have been off-putting regardless of whether or not feelings were actual realized. Similar confusions happened throughout the book based on conflicting omniscient third-person descriptions. Rather than letting the reader make up their mind about various characters, the narrator constantly changed their mind about who was friend or foe.

By the end, I was most annoyed with the folly of the teenaged sisters. Marianne was so frail and Elinor was so bland. I suppose they were both realistic representations of real fickle people, which was not what I wanted. Sense and Sensibility disappointed me because of the lack of romance novel qualities. The boring, loyal people found each other and the pretty, passionate girl found the stable, rich man. The book was too long to be so blah and didn’t have the comedic elements that I’ve enjoyed in Pride and Prejudice and Emma.

This book may be for you if you also like: Sense & Sensibility (movie, 1995. which I found to be only slightly less boring by virtue of the amazing actors); any of Jane Austen’s other novels; Much Ado About Nothing (movie, 1993); Harry Potter series (to see the actors in the 1995 S&S movie); England; wandering through fields of wildflowers; trips to London; young love; listening to the pianoforte being played.


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