You may have noticed, dear Wanderers, that we have a few Jane Austen fans hanging around the office (I mean the ones that work here, there aren’t just random fans loitering outside shouting ‘Why haven’t you interviewed Jane yet?’) – and I am definitely one of them. It may not be ‘cool’ to like the classics, but some of them are classics for a reason and Sense and Sensibility is one such example. So, without futher ado, let’s talk about why that is.
The story begins, as is so often the case in Austen’s novels, with the entailment of a man’s estate away from his wife and daughters. Left with significantly less income than they had been accustomed to, grieving for their father, and with their home inherited out from under their feet, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret Dashwood, along with their mother, are forced to take smaller lodgings in a new neighbourhood, where they soon establish themselves with a number of friends.
However, before this removal from their home – which now belongs to their brother, John, and his somewhat spiteful wife – can even take place, John’s brother-in-law comes to stay with them. Enter Edward Ferrars, perhaps dorkier than Pride and Prejudice’s Darcy but infinitely more pleasant despite his shyness. Marianne and her mother swiftly deduce that he has captured Elinor’s heart, and have high hopes for a closer relationship even when they’ve moved away. Elinor, however, is the ‘sense’ of the title, and is not so foolish as to jump to conclusions. Marianne, very much the ‘sensibility’ – which is here used in its old meaning, to mean something more like ‘sensitivity’ – soon literally falls for a dashing local gentleman named Willoughby, who seems to match her passion stride-for-stride and even loves her favourite sonnets! And all the while, new friendships are formed with their neighbours, including the refined Colonel Brandon and a young lady named Lucy Steele, nieces of the Dashwood sisters.
Well, the course of true love never did run smooth, and in a Jane Austen work it’s rare that even a financially-motivated marriage doesn’t have a few obstacles in its way. The Dashwood sisters are in for some surprising twists and turns, and it may be time for them to reevaluate their very different approaches to life.
This story is a delight, with immediately recognisable characters and charming romances, as well as betrayal, misunderstandings, and some very silly decisions all round. If you don’t fancy the book, it has been adapted several times for the screen (I personally love the 1995 Emma Thompson version) but honestly, Austen’s writing style has its own appeal and you stand to gain a lot of pleasure from the book. More than that I dare not say, for fear of spoilers – yes, it’s a 200 year old book, but it’s a joy to discover and I don’t want to deprive anyone of that joy – but I heartily recommend it to all those with even one romantic bone in their bodies.
I’d give this book 5 out of 5 – it’s one of my very favourites to read over and over again.
Eleanor Musgrove (truly detests that man. You’ll know the one I mean)