Of all of Jane Austen’s novels, I was most eager to read Sense & Sensibility. Something about the title itself appealed to me – the sounds it makes when I say it aloud, the connotation, the feeling I got when thinking about those words together…all somehow contributed the this feeling that this would be the book that I connected with the most.
Alas, just as you cannot judge a book by its ugly cover (I’m looking at you Rebecca), you cannot judge it by its title alone.
Although it’s only the second of Austen’s works that I’ve read, it’s already not my favorite of the two; I enjoyed Pride & Prejudice quite a bit more. Even as I write this, I’m not sure I’m being fair about this pronouncement, but as this is my literary journal, I feel free to record it as I see it as of this moment, just after finishing it.
Comparatively, I saw a movie version of Pride & Prejudice before I read the book, and therefore knew the story and that I already adored it; with Sense & Sensibility, I only knew that Kate Winslet (who I adore) plays Marianne in a movie production of it, but knew nothing whatsoever about the story – so perhaps this had something to do with it.
As I read, I found myself impatient with several parts; wanting to know who would end up where and which of the acquaintances I should be ‘watching’ as the story progressed. I knew of course that Willoughby was too good to be true and that Marianne was acting incredibly unabashedly, surely shamefully for her time, but I assumed that Willoughby’s eventual revelation would have been what turned out to be Edward’s (the previous engagement). I cannot believe that none of the ‘issues’ were resolved with either of the sisters, even in part, until the last two chapters of the book!
For me, the pacing was off a little bit in this one, at least as the first read through was concerned; although there were plenty of ‘action’ scenes, there seemed to be a lot more assumptions in this book, which led to much of the dramatic issues. For example, I was starting to get mad at Elinor for ‘assuming’ that Marianne and Willoughby were engaged when she really had no reason to assume it besides that her sister was completely smitten – I mean, they’re sisters – was Elinor’s concern not enough for her to ask her own sister if she was engaged??
I did like Elinor, but now that I’m thinking about it, although she is the main heroine in this novel she doesn’t really do much, does she? She is somewhat like Jane Bennet in that she is severely reserved, Elinor is very contemplative, and never answers a question before considering everyone’s feeling towards her potential remarks first. Someone needs to tell this girl to relax a little bit! Did she have a moment’s fun in the entire length of the novel?
While Pride & Prejudice was chalk full of dialogue, Sense & Sensibility was a much more internal novel, covering the thoughts and feelings of the characters much less openly than her sister novel. I suppose I was less interested in the motivations of the characters because in one case, I knew they were acting childishly and therefore that there was no happy ending for the pair of them, and in the other, that there wasn’t enough of anything to base any feeling whatever on besides what our character felt. Almost every time Edward spoke it was ‘unintelligible’, or ‘didn’t reach their ears’ (paraphrasing here) – all of the ‘action’ in that relationship took place before the start of the novel, and what we know of that the family assumed something was going on as well. Again, it’s not until chapter 49 of 50 that we get any sort of clue as to what was really happening, because lord knows Elinor didn’t.
I think it is time for me to read a few non-Austen novels before reading the one I have planned next:: Persuasion. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Sense & Sensibility, it was still written with skill by the author, but it was decidedly less happy than Pride & Prejudice, and it’s made me long for a real romance or something unrelated to romance altogether – something with anything else to grab onto besides people in hopeless love.
I hope to watch a movie production of Sense & Sensibility, which I already suspect I’ll enjoy a great deal more than the novel, only because of faster gratification – I’ve spent three whole days in the sorrow that is disappointed love, for only a few brief pages of delight, whereas a movie will move through the sorrow more quickly and presumably have a brighter pay-off in the end.
I will perhaps write on this novel again in the future, and I’ll surely read it again someday, but for now, these are my feelings, and I’ll leave it at that.
To read more of Austen in August, visit the host Roof Beam Reader’s Blog.