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Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
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Sense and Sensibility (original 1811; edition 1965)

by Jane Austen

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24,04232345 (4.14)3 / 1156
Summary: When Mr. Dashwood dies, his daughters find themselves left with only the most meager inheritance, the rest having been entailed to their elder half-brother, who is not of a particularly generous nature. The sisters and their mother move to a small cottage in the country, where both of them find themselves in love - Elinor, the elder, with the shy Edward Ferrars, and Marianne, the younger, with the dashing Mr. Willoughby. While Elinor is as reserved with her feelings as Marianne is extravagent, both seem destined for disappointment, since the situations of both gentlemen are more complicated than the Dashwoods had originally believed.

Review: Sense and Sensibility was the first of Austen's novels that I ever read, and at the time, I didn't understand why so many people seemed to love her so much. Granted, I was supremely ill-prepared for it at the time; I don't think I'd seen any of the movies, or even much from the same period, and I certainly wasn't familiar with the language or the conventions of the period. Now that I've read (and seen) (and loved) others of Austen's works, I decided to return to Sense and Sensibility and give it another shot. And, while I absolutely understood it better than I did the first time around, and enjoyed it well enough, it's still not my favorite of her books, and definitely not the one I should have started with.

A large part of the problem was that when it came to the romance angle, there wasn't really a couple that I was rooting for. I mean, I wanted the Dashwoods to be happy, so once they've figured out what will make them happy, I'm all for that... but there's a very clear note of Marianne settling for Colonel Brandon (who is almost twenty years her senior, besides), and while Elinor's feelings for Edward are pure enough, he's just not a very personable or inspiring leading man. At any rate, I never got as involved in either of their romances as I was in, say, Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy, or Anne & Captain Wentworth.

I also found the language more challenging than the other Austen novels I've read. Perhaps it's because I was reading this during a really stressed-out and distractable period (which: excellent decision, self), but in parts it felt like it was even more convoluted than I would ordinarily expect from literature of the period. I also found the preponderance of secondary and tertiary characters difficult to keep straight in parts, despite recently having watched the movie version. Overall, while it definitely did have its moments, I felt like I had to struggle with this one more than I wanted to, for less romance payoff than I was hoping for. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: My reaction is probably deeply colored by the circumstances in which I read it, and there's still plenty to be enjoyed here, but I still would recommend that an Austen newbie start somewhere else. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Feb 6, 2012 |
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Showing 1-25 of 294 (next | show all)
Things were once different. Language wasn't to communicate but to allow social interactions to proceed smoothly. It was often to conceal the reality of how one felt in favor of how one was supposed to feel. People often talked about nothing, just to pass the time or get along.

This meant that one had to have sufficient sensibility to know how people really felt and even then, it could be difficult to know. Often, this sensibility left one vulnerable to the feelings and schemes of others.

Travel took a long time. There were no phones. Music had to be performed live. Relationships were different too. Sex was something married people did. Engagements were a serious thing. There was no online dating.

Class and wealth were important because there weren't corporations or venture capitalists or Kickstarter. Whole lives could be made or broken because of incomes and inheritances real estate and only males were educated and in charge of things. Women were relied on to marry well or else were burdens on their families, unless their families disowned or were neglected them.

If one were sensible, one would let the economics of the culture be one's guide as to whom to marry, but things didn't always work out that way in practice. People would fall in love, though without the super power of sensibility, you might never know of it until they chose to declare it and, if it was economically and socially feasible, get engaged.

The main plot line in this story, is about that fine distinction between love and engagement. What if you appeared to be in love, but there was no engagement? And what if, given the lack of straightforward communication, no one could tell for sure what the actuality of the situation was?

( )
  Gimley_Farb | Jul 6, 2015 |
Read by Juliet Stevenson.
  kewlgeek | Jun 30, 2015 |
I love anything by Jane Austen. ( )
  AuthorPSBartlett | Jun 11, 2015 |
It was good to find out what really happened in the story, compete with more complicated relationships, different points of view for storytelling, and Willoughby's attempt at vindication at the end. But overall, I liked Emma Thompson's movie better! And thought this was much less heart-felt than Persuasion, my favorite so far. ( )
  MargaretPinardAuthor | May 23, 2015 |
This was the final novel of the Jane Austen’s I read in 2014, although technically I did not finish it until two days into the new year. As are her other novels, this one is a favorite. I do love Marianne’s passion and Elinor’s sensibility and good nature. I don’t know why Austen’s books appeal to me so much, other than they are a window into a simpler, much romanticized time. This book can be judged on it’s own merit, though and not just on being one the Austen romances. I love the twists and turns. There are quite a few shocking twists to the first time reader, and all the plots are interwoven so well. The storyline of Lucy is especially heart-wrenching. It’s certainly worth the read if you’ve never read it before.

Would I recommend this to a fellow book lover? Absolutely.
Would I recommend this to my teen daughter? Sure. Although the old English may make it a bit hard to follow. ( )
  lauraodom | Apr 16, 2015 |
Eminently forgettable. Two months after finishing this, I started recording my initial thoughts about Emma by saying that I only had one Austen novel to go to complete her works: Sense and Sensibility.

So, my elation having subsided from the discovery that I do not, a quick visit to Wikipedia sufficed to confirm my prediction that what I had forgotten was what I thought I’d forgotten.

There’s this family with girls. There are these guys. Some of them aren’t bad. Some are. Various combinations of relationships ensue with sporadic bouts of emotional confusion. Eventually, everything settles down at an altar or two.

Sound familiar? That’s because it is.

The end. ( )
  arukiyomi | Feb 27, 2015 |
It always takes me a while to get "into" her writing, the rhythm of her words, etc. but once I am there, I love it! ( )
  anitatally | Feb 1, 2015 |
Well-done, as usual for Jane Austen, but not as good as Pride and Prejudice.
  TrgLlyLibrarian | Feb 1, 2015 |
Re-reading this book just solidified my opinion that it is the best of the Jane Austen novels. I know everyone has their hearts set on Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy, but I believe that her first novel is raw and real and much more relatable. It truly remains as fresh a cautionary tale today as it ever was. The Dashwood sisters learn that the path to love isn't always straight and narrow and sometimes you're heart has to be broken for you to appreciate how whole a heart can be. Filled with memorable characters, witty dialogue, and unforgettable romance, this is a book readers won't soon forget.

I really enjoyed discussing the book with my library Jane Austen Book and Film Club, we talked about how societal obligations have changed but the heart has remained the same and then we watched the Masterpiece Theater version. Overall, a must read. And if you haven't watch the 1995 movie version. It's amazing and you won't regret it. ( )
  ecataldi | Jan 8, 2015 |
I very much enjoyed the book but thought the ending was one of those too good to be true endings. I really expected that at least one would get the not so happy ending. Over all though I did enjoy the story. I shall always enjoy a Jane Austen book. ( )
  Anietzerck | Dec 28, 2014 |
This book is a character study that is superbly well- written, however I found I was impatient with the extensive descriptions. I also had to reread to capture meaning. I could not finish this book. ( )
  bereanna | Dec 27, 2014 |
Although not as bright and cheerful throughout the bulk of the novel as Pride & Prejudice, this is just as wonderful a story, especially considering that this was Austen's debut, and began as an epistolary novel when Austen was twenty. If you've never read Austen I would suggest P&P first and this one second. Austen is also very accessible to men. There is no doubt that one day, I will reread this. ( )
  Michael_P | Dec 10, 2014 |
With Jane Austen, I think there’s always a lot that I don’t understand but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying her books.

Unlike when I read Pride and Prejudice, I had no idea what happened in Sense and Sensibility or even what it was about. I’m glad this was the case – knowing that happy endings weren’t assured for the characters made it more suspenseful.

“Suspenseful?” I hear you say, “How can a book about the marriage prospects of two Regency era women be suspenseful?”

The answer: It’s all about the characters. Jane Austen does characters fabulously. Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, the two sisters at the heart of the novel, are fully developed characters who could walk right off the page. And what’s more, they’re likable.

I became deeply involved in these characters lives even if their concerns and problems are so utterly different from my life in the 21st century.

Oh, and did I mention that Jane Austen’s funny? It’s a subtle sort of wit that’s more likely to make you grin than laugh out loud, but it makes her books wonderfully enjoyable.

I’m not going to bother recommending Sense and Sensibility to anyone in particular; chances are, if you live in the Western world, you’re bound to read Jane Austen at some point in your education.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | Nov 29, 2014 |
I hadn't read much Austen at all since a much-abridged P&P when I was probably in late elementary school. After looking through a book on cover designs for Austen's works I decided I really ought to try her again, and settled on this one first. I enjoyed it immensely, and will certainly be back for me. Some excellent humor and set pieces alongside a very interesting meditation on English "rural elite" society and its strictures. ( )
  JBD1 | Nov 29, 2014 |
An amazing love story ( )
  jayney576 | Nov 7, 2014 |
Austen wrote romantic novels and this is one of her best and the first with several to follow. But one may ask, what is the source of Austen's genius on the subject of love? It seems that she was able to develop a comprehensive view of the philosophies of her own time, including the rise of sensibility (Earl of Shaftesbury, Hume and Smith) and develop stories about real people who lived and loved, learned and grew through their experiences. Consider the two Dashwood sisters in Sense and Sensibility. One may contrast Marianne Dashwood, the young, beautiful, passionate, and unreserved romantic. with her older sister Elinor, prudent, pretty, and proper, with all the restraint of feelings of which Marianne had none. Their father dead, the sisters and their mother were about to be displaced from their childhood home of Norland by their half brother John, and his wife, Fanny. John "was not an ill-disposed young man, unless to be rather cold hearted, and rather selfish, is to be ill-disposed," and Fanny was even worse. He might have allowed the Dashwood sisters to remain at Norland, if only grudgingly, but she was determined to send them packing, especially once Elinor had begun a friendship with her brother Edward.

Edward had a bland personality and was practically paralyzed by shyness. While he was not particularly handsome Elinor struck up a somewhat dispassionate friendship with him. Again this was a contrast with her sister who, as the result of a chance meeting, had fallen for the dashing young, handsome and elegant Willoughby. The contrast of the sisters could not be better defined than in their choice of partners. Austen's genius extends to persuade the reader that Elinor's sense of love are truer than than the passionate sensibility of her younger sister. The romantic love of Marianne turns out to be as capable of tearing her heart apart as the Eros described in classical Greek dramas and philosophy. That this is the stuff of myth, one thinks of love at first sight, is felt by the reader, but for Austen it is not true love. It lacks a foundation and is thus unsuccessful. Grace and spirit and manners---the kinds of qualities that attracted Marianne to Willoughby---are wonderful to have, but they are no substitute for the Edward-like attributes of worth and heart and understanding. The love that has these is more likely to hold sway in the long run. ( )
  jwhenderson | Oct 30, 2014 |
It's terribly difficult to relate to these characters in this day and age. Nevertheless the writing, characterization, color, etc. is all quite lovely, whimsical, fresh and timeless. That marriage is no longer the be-all and end-all of the universe is something that I can be truly thankful for. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 22, 2014 |
It's not in my Top Three Austens but it's probably the best of the rest. I found something about Marianne terribly grating but I will probably reread it with a little more sense of perspective and hopefully not find her so much of a snivelling idiot. I'll have more to say if I do reread, I'm sure! ( )
  humblewomble | Oct 19, 2014 |
Read this book in July/August of 2005. Also read it in July/August of 2007. Time to read it again.

This might be my favorite of Austen's books - yes, even more than Pride & Prejudice. ( )
  GraceZ | Sep 6, 2014 |
I'll be honest. I read "Pride and Prejudice" thrice, I loved it more every time... and none of Austen's books has been even close to as good since then. I love her use of language but her stories are just not engaging my interest. I got interested in S&S on chapter 47 (of 50)...

A good line:

...and Marianne, who had the knack of finding her way in every house to the library, however it might be avoided by the family in general, soon procured herself a book. ( )
  Evalangui | Aug 22, 2014 |
I love the three Dashwood sisters more than I can say, but even though being like Margaret not too long ago, I really understand Marianne's emotional standpoint lately. Elinor, I admire most, and understand the most. This novel defines kind gossip, happy endings, and how to place trust. ( )
  writercity | Aug 13, 2014 |
I thoroughly enjoyed the old english in this book as well as the mindless sort of reading. It was a nice break from reality. No SERIOUS drama. No death, no horror. Just calm romance and romantic entanglements with the occasional broken heart. It was beautifully written however the last few chapters went on a little too long. I also found the run-on speeches of some of the characters to be too drawn out. A bit like reading Shakespearean monologues only without the poetic prose. Overall, though, I liked it and will definitely continue reading Austen's work. ( )
  KRaySaulis | Aug 13, 2014 |
It was good to find out what really happened in the story, compete with more complicated relationships, different points of view for storytelling, and Willoughby's attempt at vindication at the end. But overall, I liked Emma Thompson's movie better! And thought this was much less heart-felt than Persuasion, my favorite so far. ( )
  margaret.pinard | Jul 24, 2014 |
After watching the most recent adapation, I went for a 'quick' reread, which extended about a fortnight. Need to pick up the reading speed. However, I found I enjoyed this more than when I first read it, it is still more of a character study than a plot but there are some sweet moments of foreshadowing, as the suprise of Lucy marrying Robert (not Edward) related to Benwick (not Wentworth) marrying Louisa. Austen's wit does come through but it clearly isn't the later and more mature work.
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
I loved this book!! This is my fourth Jane Austen novel and it's one of my favorites. I loved the characters, plot and ending. There were twists and turns that I didn't anticipate, as well as laugh out loud moments throughout the book. This is Regency period drama at its best. But then again it's Jane Austen so how could I expect any less? If you loved Pride and Prejudice you will probably love this book too. ( )
  Lauigl | Jul 7, 2014 |
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