Friday, May 15, 2009

Book #32: "Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen

Oh, how I love Jane Austen. She's my literary comfort food--my vanilla ice cream, my peanut butter sandwich, my grilled cheese. I've read every book of hers (except for Mansfield Park because, ugh, Fanny)at least twice . The cover on my copy of Persuasion (my favorite) is so worn out you can barely read the writing on it. There's something so wonderfully satisfying about Austen's writing; the smirking sense of humor, the scathing social commentary, and of course, the always-hopeful romance with the happy ending. She's a genius and a die-hard romantic, and I imagine she'd be awesome to just sit down and have a drink with as we bitch about the world.

Sense and Sensibility is essentially about two sisters, Marianne and Elinor Dashwood and their adventures in love and society. Elinor, the eldest, is practical and level-headed. Marianne is the opposite; sentimental and impulsive. When their father dies, the girls (along with their mother and younger sister) are forced to step down from the high-society life they had and settle at a much smaller house and situation in the country. There they embark on the usual Austen adventures--love, heartbreak, outrageous coincidences and near-misses, mistaken assumptions, societal clashes, snobbishness, revealing letters, etc, etc, etc. In other words, all the things that make Austen so damn enjoyable. Her characters live in a small universe where everyone knows each other and everyone's ultimate goal is to marry or get someone else married. You would think it gets repetitive and boring, but the opposite is true, because Austen always makes it seem fresh and exciting, and it's hard not to get caught up in the small disasters and victories that happen to the characters.

Sense and Sensibility was Austen's first published novel, and as such, it doesn't feel as perfect as some of her later works. Everything is there but, I think, a little immature. Sometimes the action gets a little bogged down, and the humor isn't as hilariously wry and bitchy as it is in some of the other books. But that's nitpicking. Her characters, as usual, are either completely likable or detestable, and you find yourself rooting for (or against them) and hoping that everything turns out alright--even though you know that of course it will.

What else can I say about a book and an author that's been picked over and analyzed by just about everyone who's ever taken a survey course on English Literature? Not much, really. I know there are flaws in the book, and some people just hate Austen, but I don't really care. I love her. I love this book. If for no other reason than I'm an incurable romantic and I think I want Elinor to be my older sister. And that Colonel Brandon (and to some extent that damned Willoughby) are completely dreamy. I'll always turn into a 15 year old when I read an Austen book, and I don't mind that at all. I hope I never get so old and cynical that I can't enjoy Jane Austen.


Another reason why I love this book: it spawned my favorite movie of all time. I've seen it more times than I can count, and I have an undying love for everyone involved in it. Even Hugh Grant.


Alisaurus Rex said...


S&S is my favorite movie too. Whenever I move/get a new tv or dvd player, that's the 'test' disc to see if everything is hooked up right. And of course have to watch it all the way through to make sure it STAYS hooked up right, yes? Despite having the DVD (which replaced the VHS) I will still watch S&S every time I find it on tv.
My husband teases me about my Austen proclivities, but he can stuff it because I'm not giving up Jane!

amanda said...

Don't hate me - I've never read ANY Jane Austen. I think I just forfeited my girl card.

word verification: acepla - sounds like some sort of allergy medication

Sin said...

dude, i posted that list on my site. you should copy it to here if you want to make a survey of sorts, i'm betting you get waaaay more traffic than i do.