Sense and Sensibility
Random House, Inc, Modern Library
Hardback Edition (1995)
ISBN 0 679 60195 3
I don't have the energy to do a full-length review, so this lousy excuse for one will have to do.
Being an Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility is, of course, more sophisticated and better than the average book. However, as Austen goes, her other works are more entertaining, at least in that she grows as a writer and becomes more convincing. This was, after all, her first full-length book, and it shows.
Sense and Sensibility is closer to Love and Friendship and her other early works than masterpieces like Pride and Prejudice. For instance, the caricatures are outrageous charicatures rather than finely-drawn portraits, and the satire in the book is closer to the surface. This is highly amusing, obviously - here are just a few of the great lines in the story.
"I confess," replied Elinor, "that while I am at Barton Park, I never think of tame and quiet children with any abhorrence." (The heroine, on the Middleton's brats)
"Perhaps, Miss Marianne," cried Lucy, eager to take some revenge on her, 'you think young men never stand upon engagements, if they have no mind to keep them, little as well as great.'" (Lucy taunting Marianne about Willoughby betraying her)
Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational optimism.
They had in fact nothing to wish for, but ... rather better pasturage for their cows.
As you probably know, S and S follows Elinor, the common-sense and straightforward sister, and Marianne, the dreamy and passionate sister. As much as you come to appreciate Elinor's degree of down-to-earthiness and sympathize with Marianne's ill-fated love affair, it gets annoying after a while. Elinor is so rigidly sensible at times (and I mean that in the modern sense of the word), you wonder how she will ever get married, much less gain friends. Marianne, on the other hand, is so head-over-heels whimsical and flighty and spontaneous, but she does pay dearly for it. Then there's this whole subplot with Colonel Brandon's ruined ward and her ruined mother, with the cad Willoughby thrown in for good measure. And besides Willoughby, who is wickedly funny with the fatal flaw of being the antichrist on some levels, the other male protagonists are pretty dull. Really, there is little to recommend Colonel Brandon or Edward Ferrars.
I'm probably being too harsh in this, because this novel is truly amusing, and a good delineation of society and marriage of the era. Keep in mind that this was the first in a series of brilliant and highly ironic novels, so the authoress' skill improves as she goes along. I would appreciate comments from others who have read this book.