Finally finished my first Jane Austen book of the great reread! It took me a while mostly 'cause the weather was being dumb and when the weather would cooperate I was on an ambulance keeping people alive. Anyways a couple of nice days with some free time and I've finished Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Are we ready for my thoughts on this first novel by our famous lady? But first, as always SPOILERS AHEAD!
Story - With the exception of a few overly convenient plot points, the story is very well done. We have the weaving of several story lines, a bunch of characters and a setting the brings everything together in a fairly believable fashion. This is one of the more full on romantic of this authors novels, focusing mostly on the love lives of the main characters, but so many other things are also taken into consideration. The ability of the author to balance romance, everyday living, practicality, humor, pathos and every other literary thing is pretty awesome. It is even cooler when I remember that this was at the time a contemporary novel so it was written for the time, and yet still resonates now.
Character - The varied and complex characters are for me what really make a Jane Austen novel. She has the ability to create characters that at first glance seem to be stock or even extreme, but as the novel goes on we notice nuance and growth for almost every single character. Take the two main characters for example. Elinor is portrayed as stoic and sensible. This is mostly a good thing, but we see where her inability to share her feelings with the people she loves leads to miscommunication. Marianne on the other hand is overly emotional leading people to try and calm her or tame her, yet at the same time she is shown to be able to truly enjoy life in a way most people can't. We see Mrs. Jennings as portrayed to be a well-meaning gossip, yet by the end of the book both Elinor and Marianne see that she acts with genuine love and care. I LOVE that everybody has a motive, arc and even in most cases some sort of redeeming quality.
Editing - To me this book makes perfect sense. Some people have a bit of difficulty with some of the language...not Shakespeare level trouble, but enough to turn some people off. There are several editions that contain footnotes and blurbs that explain some of the more arcane language or turns of phrase. I find this both helpful and enlightening and find it a smart editorial choice.
Love - This book is chock full of love. Family love, sister love, friend love, but most prominently love love. I like this book because it shows us the many ways a person can fall in and out of love. We have Elinor and Edward who take there time and fall in love with the whole person. They also suffer because they are both stoic and honorable and are constantly giving each other up for various noble reasons...I'm just glad they finally got together. Marianne shows us violent young love that does not wait for true knowledge of the other person, but rather falls in love with idea's and circumstances. Marianne's later acknowledgement and acceptance of the slower, deeper, yet way less passionate love of Colonel Brandon shows a maturity in here way of thinking. Lucy Steele shows us a more selfish and catty love as she attaches only to improve her station AND to make people (mostly Elinor) feel bad. Willoughby's flirtations, seductions, abandonment's and finally marrying for money show us the worst of immature love where one only loves to gratify ones own feelings. By exploring the various kinds of love and their consequences I feel like every teenager regardless of gender/identity should read this book to get an idea of the craziness that is what we call love.
Humor - When one talks about classics or even more specifically Jane Austen one does not necessarily think of humor. I will probably address this again, as it is one of my favorite things about Austen's style, but let's start here. Ms. Austen has a very subtle tongue in cheek style that can catch one of guard if you are not paying attention. There is more then one occasion when I have laughed out loud at a turn of phrase or a well placed pun. Also certain characters (the elder Ms. Steele and Charlotte Palmer comes to mind) that seemed to be placed in the book for comic relief. It is this well roundedness that adds a lot to the overall reading experience.
Ages - This is just a bit of a personal thing for me. I know that the era that this was written in was vastly different then ours is now...but still. In this book in particular, the ages of the girls who are looking to be married are very young, like 17 years old young. In this book Marianne, who is 17 marries the 36 year old Colonel Brandon...who has a 15 year old female ward...who has a baby of her own...so essentially he married a girl who is the same age as his adopted daughter and made her an instant grandmother...kinda ew...and I like Colonel Brandon...but ew...and apparently lots of ellipses...Anyways. I know there are probably worse things, and that the age difference still happens today and there are many happy couples who have a significant age difference. I think it's the idea of a 17 year old grandmother that really gets to me...so...yeah.
Overall Impression - This first novel of my beloved Jane Austen does not disappoint. I love the complicatedness of it, I love the humaness of it, I love the eloquance of it, I don't love the overly convenient plot fixes...but that is minor compared to the awesomeness of this debut novel. I give it 8 out of 10 painted screens and recommend it to anybody who wants a great story, loves a classic or is looking for a non vomit inducing romance. Happy Reading Everybody!