Jane Austen – Sense and Sensibility
08. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811)
Length: 413 pages
Genre: Classic, Romance
Started: 09 January 2012
Finished: 21 January 2012
Where did it come from? Library booksale / free Kindle download.
Why do I have it? This was actually the second time I read this book; it was my first Austen that I ever read, over a decade ago, before I had seen any of the movies, or had any context for understanding it at all.
Two sisters, different
in manner but alike in
Summary: When Mr. Dashwood dies, his daughters find themselves left with only the most meager inheritance, the rest having been entailed to their elder half-brother, who is not of a particularly generous nature. The sisters and their mother move to a small cottage in the country, where both of them find themselves in love – Elinor, the elder, with the shy Edward Ferrars, and Marianne, the younger, with the dashing Mr. Willoughby. While Elinor is as reserved with her feelings as Marianne is extravagent, both seem destined for disappointment, since the situations of both gentlemen are more complicated than the Dashwoods had originally believed.
Review: Sense and Sensibility was the first of Austen’s novels that I ever read, and at the time, I didn’t understand why so many people seemed to love her so much. Granted, I was supremely ill-prepared for it at the time; I don’t think I’d seen any of the movies, or even much from the same period, and I certainly wasn’t familiar with the language or the conventions of the period. Now that I’ve read (and seen) (and loved) others of Austen’s works, I decided to return to Sense and Sensibility and give it another shot. And, while I absolutely understood it better than I did the first time around, and enjoyed it well enough, it’s still not my favorite of her books, and definitely not the one I should have started with.
A large part of the problem was that when it came to the romance angle, there wasn’t really a couple that I was rooting for. I mean, I wanted the Dashwoods to be happy, so once they’ve figured out what will make them happy, I’m all for that… but there’s a very clear note of Marianne settling for Colonel Brandon (who is almost twenty years her senior, besides), and while Elinor’s feelings for Edward are pure enough, he’s just not a very personable or inspiring leading man. At any rate, I never got as involved in either of their romances as I was in, say, Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy, or Anne & Captain Wentworth.
I also found the language more challenging than the other Austen novels I’ve read. Perhaps it’s because I was reading this during a really stressed-out and distractable period (which: excellent decision, self), but in parts it felt like it was even more convoluted than I would ordinarily expect from literature of the period. I also found the preponderance of secondary and tertiary characters difficult to keep straight in parts, despite recently having watched the movie version. Overall, while it definitely did have its moments, I felt like I had to struggle with this one more than I wanted to, for less romance payoff than I was hoping for. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: My reaction is probably deeply colored by the circumstances in which I read it, and there’s still plenty to be enjoyed here, but I still would recommend that an Austen newbie start somewhere else.
Other Reviews: There’s a bunch at the Book Blog Search Engine, although there’s some graphic adaptations and sea monsters mixed in there as well.
First Line: The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.
Vocab: (see the whole list)
- p. 7: “But in sorrow she must be equally carried away by her fancy, and as far beyond consolation as in pleasure she was beyond alloy.” – anything added that serves to reduce quality or purity.
- p. 9: ““I have known a great deal of the trouble of annuities; for my mouther was clogged with the payment of three to old superannuated servants by my father’s will, and it is amazing how disagreeable she found it.”” – retired because of age or infirmity.
- p. 15: “She speedily comprehended all his merits; the persuasion of his regard for Elinor perhaps assisted her penetration; but she really felt assured of his worth: and even that quietness of manner, which militated against all her established ideas of what a young man’s address ought to be, was no longer uninteresting when she knew his heart to be warm and his temper affectionate.” – to have a substantial effect; weigh heavily.
- p. 49: ““Perhaps,” said Willoughby, “his observations may have extended to the existence of nabobs, gold mohrs, and palanquins.”” – any of various gold coins of India, introduced in the 16th century by various Mogul princes and later used by the British as the standard gold coin of India.
- p. 114: “Here too, Miss Dashwood’s commendation, being only simple and just, came in without any eclat.” – showy or elaborate display.
- p. 188: “Regard for a former servant of my own, who had since fallen into misfortune, carried me to visit him in a spunging-house, where he was confined for debt; and there, the same house, under a similar confinement, was my unfortunate sister.”” – A place of temporary confinement for debtors.
- p. 205: ““Far be it from me to repine at his doing so; he had an undoubted right to dispose of his own property as he chose, but, in consequence of it, we have been obliged to make large purchases of linen, china, &c. to supply the place of what was taken away.”” – to be fretfully discontented; fret; complain.
- p. 221: “This remark was not calculated to make Edward or Elinor more easy, nor to conciliate the good will of Lucy, who looked up at Marianne with no very benignant expression” – kind, especially to inferiors; gracious
- p. 226: “The impertinence of these kind of scrutinies, moreover, was generally concluded with a compliment, which though meant as its douceur, was considered by Marianne as the greatest impertinence of all; for after undergoing an examination into the value and make of her gown, the colour of her shoes, and the arrangement of her hair, she was almost sure of being told that upon “her word she looked vastly smart, and she dared to say she would make a great many conquests.”” – a conciliatory gift or bribe.
- p. 247: ““And for my part, I was all in a fright for fear your sister should ask us for the huswives she had gave us a day or two before; but, however, nothing was said about them, and I took care to keep mine out of sight.”” – A case for sewing materials.
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