Well, I believe I started this book sometime in last October or early November. I’m not positive, but I only finished it a few days ago. I believe that in and of itself explains how I felt about this book.
Quick synopsis: Elinor and Marianne Dashwood (great surname by the way) lose their father at nineteen and seventeen years of age, respectively. As the estate laws state, only a son can inherit and there is a son from a former marriage, who inherits their beloved and large home. The son does promise the dying father that he would provide for the widow and three young daughters. However, the son has a harpy of a wife and she convinces him that the father didn’t really expect him to give them money, just to make sure they didn’t starve. So begins the Dashwood women’s struggle to find a new home for cheap and start a much smaller life.
Mr. Dashwood (son)’s wife has a brother who comes to visit, Edward Ferrars, who bonds with Elinor, but when the women leave to live in a cottage, he doesn’t profess his love like the women expect. Elinor, the one full of sense, accepts this in her calm, composed way. Arriving at Barton Cottage, on the land of Barton Park (owned by a benevolent distant relation), the women also meet Colonel Brandon, a man of thirty-five years who shows a penchant for the young, pretty Marianne. But to Marianne, Brandon is too old and boring, for she longs for sweeping romance. She does meet Willoughby, a young, dashing man who sweeps her off her feet and they have everything in common. But Willoughby cannot come up to snuff.
Edward is engaged to another and too honorable to break his engagement even though he loves Elinor (who seems to know this despite him never saying anything like it). Willoughby breaks Marianne’s heart, she goes completely weepy and despondent, and gets deathly sick, but recovers and seems to realize that Brandon, who’s been there the whole time, is the best guy all around. Everyone marries and ends happily.
The book was long. I’ve seen two movie versions of it,
which sometimes makes it easier to read slightly more formal literature, but good grief this one was long. I tore through Northanger Abbey at the beginning of the school year, and thought Sense and Sensibility would be equally engaging. It wasn’t.
I’m not sure I can pinpoint why. About halfway through the novel I found both Elinor and Marianne terribly snobbish (which isn’t unusual, Emma‘s heroine is a snob, but she grows from it), and yes, the people around them are very ‘vulgar’ and not socially appropriate. But some of them are very good-hearted people, and the elitist attitude of the two sisters annoyed me. And then there’s Marianne’s ‘sensibility.’ Falls in love quickly, cries repeatedly, takes months to get over it. She’s mildly better than Bella.
I’m being horrible, aren’t I? There’s a lot that can be recommended for the book; the contrasts between the sister is so well done and the financial situation of the whole family is very real and quite sad. I love the silliness of the Middletons and Mrs. Jennings, and how completely terrible Lucy Steele and Mrs. John Dashwood are. The love between Elinor and Marianne is touching and persists through all their struggles. As an only child, I am jealous of their connection.
But I find that the story just lagged. I can see that all the information is fairly important to develop the plot, characters and relationships, but I forced myself to keep reading. In talking to some friends who read Austen, I’ve found that Sense and Sensibility seems to be a struggle for most.
So, read it so you can read all of her books, but as I’ve now read four of Austen’s, this one is at the bottom of my list. Way bottom.
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