Saturday, 7 April 2012
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
The book follows the lives of the Dashwood family: Mrs Dashwood and her three daughters Elinor, Marianne and Margaret from the time of the death of Mr Dashwood through to their having to move out of the family home, Norland, to make way for their rather selfish half-brother (from Mr Dashwood's previous marriage) along with his even worse wife and into a smaller cottage in Devonshire. They are then introduced to Mrs Dashwood's family, the Middletons, who in turn introduce them to their circle of friends and then we start to see events unfold.
This book is set mainly from the eldest sister, Elinor's, view on events. She is the most sensible, emotionally reserved out of her and her second sister, Marianne. Unfortunately Margaret does not get much of a look-in in this book as she is the youngest and so seen to be not yet of an age where she is victim to all the love entanglements, misunderstandings and social requirements that her two elder sisters find themselves subject to.
Elinor, whilst still residing at Norland, found herself being paid attention by the new Mrs Dashwood's brother, Edward Ferrars and secretly hopes this may continue after the move, even with Mrs Fanny Dashwood informing Elinor's mother that this relationship could never happen. Marianne, meanwhile, has no romantic interests when they move. However, as the more romantic and dramatic of the two sisters, you can be sure that this could easily change. She is 16/17 at the start of the book and full of ideas of how a man should be and what sort of relationship she would look for. A potential suitor, Colonel Brandon, is suitably put down by her as being too old (he is 35) and her descriptions of how she imagines that marriage to be on her part are rather hilarious (she sees herself as more of a nursemaid than a wife). It is after this that she meets Mr John Willoughby, through a rather 'damsel in distress' moment, and they start to be seen as courting by those around them.
Now, this all seems rather simple and set out but Miss Austen has a few twists and turns up her sleeve that I shan't spoil for you. All I shall say is that the only seemingly constant men throughout this book are those already married and Colonel Brandon.
Austen is really capable of showing the characters growth throughout this book, whether it's Marianne needing to mature or Elinor needing to show her emotions more, even to the point of showing the men noticing that they need to change in order to be happy. These characters became real people to me and I found myself buried in their world (I had to remind myself to stop speaking 'Austen' at times before I received funny looks) and investing my feelings in the outcome of their situations.
This is well written and an enjoyable read with Austen managing to set the scenes well whilst also conveying across Elinor's feelings on every situation she has to face. You really end up feeling for Elinor as she hides her own miseries whilst dealing with Marianne's dramatic reactions to what happens to her. I found Elinor to be my favourite of the two sisters, she is constant and loyal to her family at the same time as keeping her own feelings to herself whilst still holding on to any hope.
The most common reaction to my telling people I was reading this book was 'I preferred Pride & Prejudice to Sense & Sensibility' or vise versa. As I have yet to read P&P (I know, terrible) I cannot give my verdict but I'm happy to say that, if the rest of her books are like this one and Emma, then Jane Austen will shortly become one of my favourite authors.
If you enjoy books from this period then I highly recommend you read this, the same goes for if you have yet to dip your toe in this era but you find you want to. It takes on some problems that are still occuring today (love and the emotions that go with it don't change) and does so from two very different points of view. Bring on the next Austen, I say!