Sense and Sensibility

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sense and Sensibility
by Jane Austen

Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are sisters but their temperaments are wildly different. Marianne is full of fire and enthusiasm while Elinor is more reserved and logical. Despite this the two sisters are devoted to one another. When their father dies and they find themselves moving into a new cottage with their mother and younger sister they must find a balance between their divergent natures as they fall in love.

At its heart, S&S is a book about the relationship between sisters. You love them, you want to protect them and you want them to be happy, but often there’s no one more different from you. There is romance, but it takes a back seat to the unique bond shared by the Dashwood sisters.

Like all of Austen’s novels, there are some wonderfully funny characters and others that it’s a joy to despise (I’m looking at you Lucy Steele). The book also as one of the most heartbreaking love stories, Marianne and Willoughby, and one of the sweetest romantic scenes, when Elinor and Edward finally get together after she’s convinced he’s already married. Austen had an incredibly gift for making her readers fall in love with her characters.

I think the reason this book resonated so much with me when I first read it, (10 years ago) and now again as a reread, is because I see my own relationship with my sister in this book. She met her husband and a year later, at age 20, she got married. Now, ten years later she has four kids. She’s not a fan of planning or traveling. She’s late everywhere she goes, she doesn’t like to read and she has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. She’s incredibly sweet and hates fighting with anyone.

I on the other hand, met my husband and we dated for 9 years before getting married. We’ve been married for 2 ½ years and we’re still not ready for kids. I have traveled to 12 countries and obviously love reading. I’m a type A planner and can be very confrontational if I’ve got an issue with someone. In other words, we have polar opposite personalities.

I identified with this book because despite our differences, we love each other so much. Like Elinor and Marianne, we don’t necessarily understand the other’s life choices, but we respect them and support them.

BOTTOM LINE: I love Austen’s work and this one is no exception. Though the plot certainly includes love stories; the passionate Willoughby, pining Col. Brandon and loyal Edward; the real story is about the relationship between the sisters. The unconditional love they share defies their differences. It’s a beautiful reminder to readers that sometimes the things that set us apart as individuals are the very elements that make our relationships stronger. We should learn from our friends and family member’s strengths and weaknesses instead of criticizing them.
“Elinor was to be the comforter of others in her own distresses, no less than in theirs; and all the comfort that could be given by assurances of her own compose of mind, and a very earnest vindication of Edward from every change but of imprudence, was readily offered.”

“I have frequently detected myself in such kind of mistakes,” said Elinor, “in a total misapprehension of character in some point or other: fancying people so much more gay or grave, or ingenious or stupid than they really are, and I can hardly tell why or in what the deception originated. Sometimes one is guided by what other people say of them, without giving oneself time to deliberate and judge.”

“Between them no subject is finished, no communication is even made, till it has been made at least twenty times over.”

p.s. I read the new Bath Bicentennial edition and it is gorgeous! 
p.p.s. If you've never seen the 1995 film version of the book (starring Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson) go see it immediately! It's one of my absolute favorites.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I've read P&P and Persuasion and loved them. She is wonderful. I had every intention of reading this one during some Jane Austen challenge but never got around to it. It is really sad that I get so distracted by the newest and hottest reads, when I really just need to focus on some classics!

*ೃ༄ Jillian said...

As you know, I adore this novel. I hoinestly cannot wait to re-read it. I was sighing just reading your post! :)

Jeanne said...

This is one of the novels that formed my idea of what it must be like to have a sister.
I love your story about the differences between you and your sister. As a measure of support, I will tell you that I waited eleven years after getting married before I had my first child.

Kat @ NoPageLeftBehind said...

Great review! The scene where Edward and Elinor finally get together is one of my favorites too (I almost always cry)!

Also, I totally agree with your assessment of the '95 film version - it's a fantastic movie adaptation!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - I'm always so tempted to read the latest books too! Persuasion is my favorite Austen, but P&P is a close second.

Jillian - You mentioned it a few times over the past couple months and that definitely made me bump it up the re-read pile.

Jeanne - That's so good to know! You know the Midwest, there's so much perssure to marry young and have lots of babies immediately.

Kat - That scene gets me every time! I don't think I could ever get tired of that movie. I love it.

Chrisbookarama said...

I haven't read this one in ages! I love the movie too.

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

Although S&S is nowhere near my favorite Austen (it's actually 5th), the sister-sister relationship also rings so true to me. In a lot of ways I'm Elinor and my sister is Marianne just like we discussed when we did a sister book club. Good times :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Bookworm1858 - It's not my favorite either, but I feel the same sister connection to it. I'm much more of an Elinor too!

Anonymous said...

I too love Austen and loved this book. I love your review. Adding picks of the different editions is a nice touch.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

FABR Steph - Thanks. I realized that sometimes I feel like skipping people's reviews if the book cover completely turns me off. But usually there's multiple versions of each book.