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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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23,48930747 (4.14)3 / 1085
fyrefly98's review
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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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 |
Originally titled Elinor and Marianne, in a way the book was still named after it’s two main characters. Elinor is eminently sensible, always putting her own feelings second to looking out for her mother and sister. Elinor is the exact opposite, entirely focused on her own sensibility and feelings with a complete lack of concern for the practical. Despite their dissimilarity, both sisters will face similar challenges as they navigate society trying to find love.

This was a reread for me and the first thing I noticed was that I didn’t remember just how funny Jane Austen can be. The humor is very dry and understated, but I thought that made it even better. She rarely outright tells you anything about a character, instead giving you snapshots of their lives that show their personality. As one of the critics quoted in the book pointed out, although the book isn’t overly predictable, the characters always act self-consistently enough that their actions don’t surprise you.

Although I personally relate much more to Elinor than to Marianne, I liked that the two heroines were so different. It added interest and should give everyone a character to empathize with. The plot was strangely engaging. Events move fairly slowly and what happens is all gossip and romance; not a description that I would expect for such an enthralling book! Despite the apparently unexciting contents, I couldn’t put the book down and always wanted to know what happened next.

In addition to liking the story, I also liked the edition I picked up. It was a Barnes & Noble classics edition and it included the best extras. The introduction was less spoiler-y than many but still thought-provoking. I also liked that at the end of the book there was some extra discussion, some book club discussion questions, and a few quotes from critics across the ages. It gave some great context to the story and I’ll definitely be picking up more classics from this series.

This review first published on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Jun 29, 2014 |
The satisfaction of this novel is not so much in seeing how the two sisters will be matched among Willoughby, Brandon and Edward, but in the changing and complex development of their relationship with each other. Austen is pleasant and witty, as usual. ( )
  marthaearly | Jun 6, 2014 |
Sense and sensibility by Jane Austen was definelty a good read. OK.. till now I have read 4 books by Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Emma including this one. But compared to all the three this stands last in my favorites. Reason being, in the other 3 books I found both male and female protagonist quite strong and enchanting equally in their own way, but that was not the case with this book.In Sense and sensibility, I found there was more importance given to the female characters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood which made the male characters unappealing. But considering the fact that Austen had actually named this one as “Elinor and Marianne” before changing the title to "Sense and sensibility” the importance is quite justifiable too.

My favorite character in this book was Elinor she was a very strong willed women. Neither she showed off her weakness to anyone nor her happiness and both are very difficult emotions to hide with indifference which she hid it pretty nicely without giving any sign to anyone around, which appealed to me the most. Where as her sister Marianne though she was sweet and caring towards her sister and outspoken too at times yet emotionally she seemed very hasty and weak. The difference between these two sisters is portrayed beautifully.

Actually the best part of Austen’s books are the characters’ that she creates and their characterization. To begin with, there will be a lot of them and they all will be specifically very different from each other in every sense. Its almost like meeting all your annoying, artificial (fake) and genuine relatives at once in just one book! And the ending of course, which till the very end seems to be very sad and melancholic but in turn, turns to be a "happy one"!!!!! Which I love the most in Austens' novels!! ( )
  Versha.Bharat | May 30, 2014 |
Love this book, love the author, even loved the movie. Austen has such a way with worlds and her descriptions that I can see it like a movie in my mind. I have read this book no less thn 5 times and I still get the same rush each time I read it. ( )
  NicolefromCarmel | May 1, 2014 |
Jane Austen creates stories that sparkle and her novels refresh me. I read this book quickly and steadily so I could find out what happens to the people who inhabit the world of this novel. Will the half brother to Elinor and her sisters fulfill the promise to help them financially? A promise made to his dying father. What will Edward do? What will Willoughby do? Behave like gentlemen or like cads? Some of the sisters’ well to do relatives were awful selfish snobs, and some of them were caring and good natured. And how I enjoy reading about leaving calling cards, the beautiful dresses and carriages, the fine dining, and the world Austen creates here. Best of all, I like reading the powerful love stories which include devotion, betrayal and in some cases, redemption. ( )
  hangen | Apr 14, 2014 |
One of my favorites that I can read over and over. ( )
  CharityBradford | Apr 1, 2014 |
One of my favorites that I can read over and over. ( )
  CharityBradford | Apr 1, 2014 |
It's a bit off perfect, although rather close-- but not the equal of "Pride and Prejudice".

The ending isn't quite clear until the last lines of the final chapter, but the resolution is rather tolerable than happy, I think.

It's her first full-length novel, and in many ways I think she's still finding her way. The relations between her ladies and gentlemen aren't quite happy, as though she's unsure of how to bring them together. I also suspect in a way it's a transitional piece, between her youthful, looser, work, and her mature work, which is more settled on feelings. Because of this aging I suppose, there's a slight overcompensation, eventually, on behalf of rationality, rather than feeling, if that makes sense. Or more simply maybe, in the end she's a little hard on Marianne.

It's still clearly Jane Austen's work, though, in the way she judges people's faults lightly, overlooking what is lacking when she can, in my opinion. In this way she allows the solid Colonel Brandon to acquit himself of merely being old and little else, and spares Willoughby from suffering overmuch from his youthful mistakes. Also Elinor's burdens are eventually lightened and her character shown in progressively more positive light.... and Marianne in spite of everything, may still have the prettier character. At any rate the relation between the sisters, like the relation between Jane and Elizabeth in "Pride and Prejudice", is well done.

"Sense and Sensibility", though, is a less happy, less pretty novel, which nurtures romantic feeling less perfectly.... It's interesting to observe-- like Jane observes rather than judges, I think-- the difference between how fares the dull Mr. Collins in "Pride and Prejudice" with the dull Mr. Ferrars in "Sense and Sensibility". With Collins his dullness is as much made sport of as it is possible without being overly ungentle to do; Ferrars causes difficulty if anything because he cannot make up his mind. I suppose that Willoughby's passion casts a long shadow in this book, and much is looked well upon simply because it is safe-- more so than it can be for a truly pretty settlement of the people's feelings.

But still I have to give it full marks based on how good it is compared to everything else except Jane Austen. Like "Let It Be" which is rather poor and underdeveloped for the Beatles, but better than most other bands at their height, "Sense and Sensibility" is a lesser work for the artist, but still a real work of art.

(10/10) ( )
  fearless2012 | Mar 16, 2014 |
Descriptions and dialog dominate the beginning of this book. It isn't until a third of the way in that the story begins move along. It can take a while to sort out the many characters, especially as each character is alternately mentioned by their first and last names. With entire families involved in the storyline, I found it difficult at times to determine which character was speaking. Overall this is a story with depth and a great deal of introspection. ( )
  amkj | Mar 15, 2014 |
I feel like I should hate this book....but I don't. The beginning was extremely slow and monotonous but I was determined to get through it. I absolutely hated how it took so long to jus get to the point. Although I did like the story and the romance :) ( )
  Milaxox | Feb 23, 2014 |
I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice but Sense and Sensibility is even better! Jane Austen is the master of characters and plot. ( )
  jamesfallen | Feb 7, 2014 |
I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice but Sense and Sensibility is even better! Jane Austen is the master of characters and plot. ( )
  jamesfallen | Feb 7, 2014 |
I enjoyed Pride and Prejudice but Sense and Sensibility is even better! Jane Austen is the master of characters and plot. ( )
  jamesfallen | Feb 7, 2014 |
I love the way this woman writes. ( )
  wrk1 | Jan 15, 2014 |
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