Thursday, April 21, 2016

Let's Bust a Recap : Sense & Sensibility

Ah, Sense & Sensibility. My first love in the wonderful world of Austen. The novel that drew me in and gave me an insatiable appetite for the rest of Miss Jane's fabulous fiction. Sense & Sensibility was the first Jane Austen novel I ever read, and (in case you couldn't tell), I've been in love with Jane Austen ever since. If you caught the most recent Casual Friday around here, you know that I just finished re-reading it last week so let's recap.

Jane Austen began writing Sense & Sensibility when she was 19. She had it published on commission (meaning she ran the risk of having to pay for any losses the publisher might incur if it didn't sell) in 1811 when she was 36 years old. It was published without an author's name attached because at that time, female authors were shunned by their own sex and despised by the other. Pretty rough. But Sense & Sensibility turned out to be a success and sold out its first printing in 2 to 3 years.

Sense & Sensibility centers around two of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne. After the death of Henry Dashwood, his wife and three daughters have to leave their beloved Norwood due to a legal technicality which bequeathed the estate to Henry's only son from a different marriage. Even though this son, John Dashwood, is already wealthy before coming into this new inheritance, and even though John promises his father on his father's deathbed that he will take care of his sisters and stepmother, his selfish wife Fanny talks him out of any good deeds he contrives to complete on behalf of them.

The Dashwood women end up at a cottage in Barton Park and become close to such characters as the Middletons, Mrs. Jennings, Colonel Brandon, and Mr. Willoughby. Throughout the novel, we see the practical, even-keeled, sensible Elinor (the sense in Sense & Sensibility) facing disappointment in love sharply contrasted by the dramatic, over-emotional, self-indulgent Marianne (the sensibility) also dealing with romantic disappointments of her own.

Elinor Dashwood is my very favorite of all of Austen's leading ladies. She's smart, self-sufficient, commander of her emotions, polite, and strong. She cares about her family and loves them through their flaws while still gently correcting poor conduct in her sisters and even her mother. She is a model woman, and we girls could all take a page from her book

Marianne, on the other hand, is a bit cray-cray. But we can forgive her because she's only 17, and, in the end, she does take a page from her sister's book and strives to be more like her. The way that Marianne learns from and grows because of her sister Elinor's example is commendable especially because she does so in spite of the fact that her natural behavior is so similar to and encouraged by her mother.

As for the leading men in Sense & Sensibility, Colonel Brandon, Willoughby, and Edward Ferrars, (I won't tell you who ends up with whom) I have to admit that they're among my least favorite of Austen's literary men. I wouldn't personally want to marry any of them. That being said, I love this novel, and I love the way it turns out.

Sense & Sensibility is such a well-developed story, and I would highly recommend it. The characters are complex and the plot takes some twists along the way that you might not expect. Jane Austen writes with such wit and sarcasm which is one of the reasons she's one of my favorite authors of all time. If you haven't read anything by her, Sense & Sensibility is a great place to start, in my opinion.

My favorite quote from Sense & Sensibility, almost at the very end of the book, is this:
"...for though a very few hours spent in the hard labour of incessant talking will dispatch more subjects than can really be in common between any two rational creatures, yet with lovers it is different. Between them no subject is finished, no communication is even made, till it has been made at least twenty times over."
I mean, can you relate? Don't you just love that? I do.

Have you read anything by Jane Austen? What is your favorite Jane Austen novel? Any Austen haters out there? Why don't you like her? (I promise I won't burn you at the stake as long as you have a genuine opinion based on an actual knowledge of her work.) For anyone who has read Sense & Sensibility, would you agree that it's a good starting place to wade into the world of Austen or would you recommend something else?


  1. I need to read more Austen. And by more, I mean something. I think I've only read maybe one of her books. Please don't shoot me. I will peruse my library at home forthwith and find a Jane Austen book to read.
    Also, it amazes me how good her writing was at such a young age! I feel like I can't write anything even close to being that prolific and I'm almost 30! (Which I still can't believe... holy cow).

    1. I would never shoot you, but that is sad. What's the one you've read? Pride & Prejudice? Or did you read Persuasion when the book club was doing it?

    2. I've read Emma...and I think I may have read Persuasion? What's it about? And I haven't read Pride & Prejudice. I KNOW, I KNOW, WHAT'S WRONG WITH MEEEEEEE?!!!!

    3. Emma is SO good! Knightley is my favorite leading man from all of Austen's work. He's the BEST!

      Here's what Persuasion is about:

      Go. Read. Pride. And. Prejudice. Right. Now.

    4. I looked over the books I have, and the only two Jane Austen novels I own are "Emma" (which I definitely have read) and "Persuasion" (which I haven't read). So I'll probably try to start reading Persuasion soon.

  2. It's a tie between Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Emma is a close contender also. I can't just pick one.

    1. And is this for your favorite or what you would recommend someone start with? In our facebook book club, we started out with Persuasion and Jon hated it. As far as favorites, I can't pick one either. It's always whichever one I'm reading! Haha! Except for maybe Mansfield Park. I like it, but I would never call it my favorite.

    2. Favorite. If I were to start with Austen, I would start with Pride and Prejudice.

  3. Hannah, you certainly are inspiring. Love you!

  4. I do not like Jane Austen. *gasp*
    Well I should say I did not like Pride and Prejudice and I did not find Emma interesting either. *double gasp*
    So it might be just those two books but I don't plan on reading Sense and Sensibility because from what you wrote it sounds very similar.
    I couldn't find anyone I could identify with in either book. And can someone please explain how Mr. Darcy is so great? He is condescending and patronising right to the end.
    Also I did a little research on old Jane herself (thank you wikipedia) and how in the world can she genuinely describe the way lovers interact with each other when she herself has never had a lover? I understand that authors do not have to experience everything they write about in order to portray an accurate and real story but her never being married may be why I have trouble finding authenticity in the two books of hers that I read.

    1. Oak, you should read Northanger Abbey. It's hilarious. That might be your only chance with Austen if you didn't like Pride & Prejudice or Emma.

  5. Hi, my name is Caroline & I've never read a Jane Austen book.
    (feels good to get that out there)
    I seriously considered just reading one real fast so I could say that I had, but, like, no.
    I've read books about Jane Austen.
    I've written small research papers about her style and library.
    I've seen multiple movies based on the books,
    but no, I've never actually read one.
    I vow to change that this year.
    You have yet again inspired me.

    1. Caroline.
      Care. Oh. Liiiiiine!
      You have got to get on the Austen train, my friend.
      I want to know what you decide to read (and why) and your thoughts from beginning to end.