Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (A Good Love Story Series #2)

9 Feb

It’s been a few days and chances are you are getting progressively more and more sick of Valentine’s Day ads and stores everywhere encrusted with red and pink tchatchkes and people complaining about being single/bragging about being in a relationship. I’ve been there, I get it. But, if only for history’s sake, take a look at Sense and Sensibility if you haven’t already. Considered a parody of the early 19th century romance novel, it may just be witty enough to keep you sane as you walk by the selection of approximately 2904328578 boxes of chocolate in your local drug store.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Published: 1811

Quick Read?: Yes, this is pretty quick.

Difficulty?: Not really. The most difficult parts are long explanations of inheritance and marriage law at this time. But it is important, and otherwise the book is quite straightforward.

Synopsis: Three sisters, Marianne, Elinor, and Margaret find themselves in a precarious position when their father dies and their brother takes all of the considerably large inheritance for himself. Now reduced to far less extravagant circumstances, the sisters find themselves living in a small cottage near their relative, Sir John Middleton. Elinor is the eldest sister and the most rational, but must deal with their new acquaintance, Colonel Brandon, and his affections for her (a man in his 30’s! Shocking!). Marianne, however, is the younger sister, full of emotional and “sensibility” (which at this time meant a kind of feminine emotional hysterics. Lovely.), and she falls for Willoughby, a kind gentleman whom she soon falls absolutely gaga for, much to Elinor’s annoyance. Elinor tries to conduct herself without feeling, which causes Colonel Brandon to back away, making her realize her own feelings. Marianne throws herself at Willoughby, only to watch him go off to London and marry another woman. Though both sisters seek happiness, how could they ever come to terms with reason and emotion, sense and sensibility? (couldn’t help it, guys.)

Why read this book? This novel is considered one of Austen’s more ironic–it very much plays with the silly, “sensible” romance novels that were popular with women during this time period. The extreme polar opposites of Elinor and Marianne reflect a real struggle at the time for women, especially those who wanted to be educated: does one listen to one’s heart and show emotion, only to not be taken as seriously? Or does one reserve all emotion and seem unfeeling, only to alienate oneself from others seeing the real person inside? It’s still a timeless issue, and one that is still thought of constantly today.

It’s also, in my humble opinion, one of the funniest books I’ve read by Austen (though admittedly I’ve only read some of her works). The sisters working as complete opposites here is compelling, and the ways in which they interact with each other don’t necessarily come off as cheesy, as many more recent books that copy a similar storyline become. Austen really does show the dangers of both sense and sensibility, and puts both ideas up for contrast, not just two opposite characters.

Some neat-o facts: 

We want a lady on the street, and a writer who is "A Lady" but you know, not named or anything.

  • Austen originally published Sense and Sensibility under “A Lady” rather than her own name. Women writers where not taken quite as seriously at this time.
  • Though Austen wrote romantic works, she was considered a “realist” writers, in that her books were starkly detailed and set in real-life places and situations. I guess one might argue that romance CAN be real, then?
  • Very little is known about Jane’s life because asked for many of her papers and letters to be burned upon  her (unfortunately young) death. For that reason, most of what we know about her is through her family members. A cause of intrigue if you ask me! And, you know, actual literary scholars.

If you like this, try: Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion by Austen; David Copperfield by Chales Dickens; Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

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2 Responses to “Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (A Good Love Story Series #2)”

  1. Eagle-Eyed Editor February 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Love your post! My favorite character in Sense and Sensibility is Col. Brandon. He might be older than Marianne, but he’s still a likeable guy…kind and smart.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde « Better Know A Book - March 22, 2012

    […] The Picture of Dorian Gray by Wilde; any play by George Bernard Shaw; Orlando by Virginia Woolf; Sense and Sensibility by Jane […]

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