Monday, 16 May 2011

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

It's a long time since I read Sense and Sensibility. The main characters of Pride and Prejudice are cemented into my brain but the characters in the other novels sort of mingle together and I'm not quite sure who belongs where. Does Catherine Morland live at Norland? Does Anne Elliot become fast friends with Isabella Thorpe? Does Emma Woodhouse end up marrying Edward Ferrars?

So it was good to read Sense and Sensibility again and get it straight in my head. We're dealing with Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Willoughby, Colonel Brandon, Edward Ferrars, a cottage in Devon and a winter season in London. Plus, of course, a large cast of supporting characters.

Elinor and Marianne are the Sense and Sensibility of the title. Elinor is practical, sensible and refuses to give in to her emotions. Marianne is nothing but emotion, everything she feels must be expressed. I think as  readers we're supposed be on Elinor's side, Austen seems to admire her qualities. But I can't help wondering if many of Marianne's outbursts are about getting some kind of reaction out of the impassive Elinor.

After the death of their father the two girls, with their mother and younger sister move into a small cottage in Devon. They are taken under the wing of Mrs Dashwood's cousin, Sir John Middleton, and are often at his house for dinners and parties. Marianne is very dismissive of the people she meets there. Sir John's mother-in-law, Mrs Jennings, is a particular problem for both girls. She is obsessively interested in finding out the details of their love lives. She isn't cruel, it's all in fun, but the girls find it excruciating.

Both girls fall in love and both romances go wrong. Elinor ploughs on through, suppressing her heartache and taking care of Marianne, who has made herself ill with grief. It is during this time and its aftermath that they discover hidden depths to some people they had dismissed, and Marianne in particular is let down by someone she thought she knew well.

I enjoyed re-reading this, though I don't think it's my favourite Austen. As always with her, the writing is light and easy to read. If reading Dickens is like entering a dark labyrinth, drawing you into another world, reading Austen is like a country walk on a sunny spring day.

This review is part of the Classic Circuit blog tour. The schedule is here. Thank you to the organisers, I've really enjoyed taking part, and am looking forward to the next one.


  1. This is the only Austen novel I still haven't read and I'm hoping to get round to reading it sometime in the near future. My favourite so far is Persuasion, though maybe that will change after I read this one.

  2. Helen - the one I haven't read is Mansfield Park, but I'm determined to read it this year. I think I would say Emma is my favourite, but it changes from time to time.

  3. I shamefully have read no Austen novels - I think this needs to be corrected I am sure.

  4. I like what you said about reading Austen is like a country walk on a sunny spring day. That's how I feel about her, too.

  5. Must be an enjoyable read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.