Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
Review by Kate Shaw
I am an Austenite. Plain and simple. There is nothing that Ms. Austen wrote that I actively dislike (though admittedly Emma is not my favorite). Her first novel, Sense and Sensibility is nothing short of magical. This charming tale explores the lives of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood as they navigate the world of early 1800s England. The sisters are recently impoverished by the death of their wealthy father, his money and estate being inherited by a son from a previous marriage.
Along with their mother and youngest sister, Elinor and Marianne are forced to relocate to a small home provided mostly through the charity of a distant cousin, their elder half-brother being a man easily manipulated by a snobbish wife. Sense & Sensibility explores the sisters’ relationship with each other, their circumstances, and a few suitors along the way. Marianne is a slave to her emotions, unable to hide her feelings, often bringing undue attention to herself by behaving in a manner that was considered unladylike for a single lady. Elinor, by contrast, is a slave to the dictates of her time, leaving her guarded and unwilling to share her deepest feelings even with her sister.
Over the course of this beautifully written novel, penned when Jane Austen was barely a woman herself, the reader is exposed to life of the middle class society and how status could change simply by uttering the wrong word at the wrong time. There is an exploration the propriety of the Dashwood girls’ behavior and the heartbreaking reality of what it was like to be a woman at the time, where worth was tied to marriageability and oftentimes love didn’t conquer all.
It’s no surprise that this novel is considered a classic, remaining in print for more than 200 years. This timeless story is always worth a read or a reread.
If you have the chance, I cannot recommend People’s Light & Theatre’s production of Sense & Sensibility highly enough. The show runs through March 20th and it is well worth the price of admission. The adaptation is a vibrant portrayal of the time with stunning costuming and simply brilliant acting. Do yourself a favor and go see the humor and heartbreak of Elinor & Marianne’s journeys unfold.
For further fun: enjoy the two lovely film adaptations.
Check availability on Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Check availability on the 1995 Emma Thompson Adaptation starring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Greg Wise & Hugh Grant.
Check availability on the 2008 BBC Adaptation starring Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, David Morrissey, Dominic Cooper & Dan Stevens.
About the reviewer: Reference Librarian Kate Shaw has a Jane Austen action figure in her office at TPL. She rereads at least one Austen novel a year.