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Sense and Sensibility
Sense and Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
ISBN: 4248
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Book Type: Paperback
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A review from Amazon.com:
Although SENSE AND SENSIBILITY is not of one Jane Austen's best novels, it is nonetheless a major novel, with the author's then-young talent in full display. Its publication in 1811 marked Austen as a huge literary talent, and its significance reverberates even today as contemporary readers re-discover the works of this author so adept at uncovering the foibles of nineteenth century aristocracy.

The title refers to the two eldest Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, one of whom (Elinor) embraces practicality and restraint while the other (Marianne) gives her whole heart to every endeavor. When the Dashwoods - mother Mrs. Dashwood, Elinor, Marianne, and youngest sister Margaret - are sent, almost impoverished, to a small cottage in Devonshire after the death of their father and the machinations of their brother's wife, they accept their new circumstances with as much cheer as they can muster even though their brother and his wife have taken over the family estate and fortune. Their characters, albeit wildly different in their approaches to life, are impeccably honest and intelligent - and their suitors take notice. Elinor falls in love with the shy, awkward Edward, while Marianne's affections are lavished on the dashing hunter Willoughby. As in all Austen's books, love and marriage don't come easily, as affections aren't always returned and social jockeying sometimes takes precedence to true love. In an interestingly twist, the end of this novel brings into question which sister represents which part of the title.

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY only hints at the social skewering Austen would use to such great effect in her later novels, and the humor here is only occasional and slight, as this novel adopts a generally serious tone. Parody is largely limited to the gossipy Mrs. Jenkins, who jumps to wild conclusions about situations she knows nothing about. Though arranged marriage and true love figure prominently in all of Austen's novels, this novel focuses almost exclusivity on the prospects of the two main characters, making it less complex than the novels that followed. Reserved Elinor and exuberant Marianne are expertly drawn, with Edward, Willoughby, and Colonel Brandon (whose lovesick hopes for Marianne are dashed again and again) also engaging creations. Except for the first page or two where the circumstances of the Dashwoods are set up through a series of deaths and relations, possibly causing some confusion, this novel is exceedingly easy to follow for contemporary readers.

This novel is an excellent introduction to Jane Austen's works because of its relative simplicity (though readers should not dismiss it as simple) and the use of typical themes and social situations. Book clubs and students might want to explore the influence of money on nineteenth century British society as well as the meaning of the title as it applies to both the sisters and the other characters. It is also interesting to note both the helplessness and the extraordinary power of women in different circumstances.

Just because this is not Austen's best novel, I could not take away a single star because it is such a delightful book. I highly recommend this novel for all readers.