Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: A+

Book description:
Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility is a wonderfully entertaining tale of flirtation and folly that revolves around two starkly different sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. While Elinor is thoughtful, considerate, and calm, her younger sister is emotional and wildly romantic. Both are looking for a husband, but neither Elinor’s reason nor Marianne’s passion can lead them to perfect happiness.

Startling secrets, unexpected twists, and heartless betrayals interrupt the marriage games that follow. Filled with satiric wit and subtle characterizations, Sense and Sensibility teaches that true love requires a balance of reason and emotion.

I had never read this before. And I call myself an Austen fan!

There is much to recommend this book, but primarily I would say that the characterizations were its best asset. It can’t be easy to create a very sensible character like Elinor, and yet perfectly convey that she is also a person of great feeling and compassion or to create a very emotional one like Marianne, and yet also make clear that she isn’t flighty or stupid. Additionally, Austen populates the novel with a host of memorable minor characters, at whose expense she occasionally engages in some breezily skewering satire. Here’s a favorite passage of mine:

Sir John was loud in his admiration at the end of every song and as loud in his conversation with the others while every song lasted. Lady Middleton frequently called him to order, wondered how any one’s attention could be diverted from music for a moment, and asked Marianne to sing a particular song which Marianne had just finished.

If pressed to note a flaw, the only thing I could mention is the character of Edward, and Elinor’s feelings for him. Because they are formed before the start of the novel, and then Edward is never quite himself on his subsequent appearances, I didn’t really get why she loved him.

As a random observation, I was struck with how often the Dashwood sisters were compelled to accept invitations they would have preferred to refuse, be it to reside in a certain house for a time or to spend time associating with tiresome people. Once there, they often had to sit around for hours being bored or discussing which of a pair of children was the taller. Dreary! Happily, the same cannot be said of Sense and Sensibility.

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