“I will be calm. I will be mistress of myself.”
Elinor is sensible, she knows how best to act in society and plays the affairs of her heart very close to her chest. Marianne is a hopeless romantic, swept up by the handsome Willoughby before she can truly assess what she is doing. Both sisters feel the ups and downs of love as they are presented with the complicated ways of courtship, and are surprised when their different approaches to life and love land them in very similar situations…
Can you really spoil a 200 year old book…? But just in case, spoilers.
I always try to read a classic at least (at the very least) once a year. But when it comes to reviewing them I always find it really hard. This book in particular has been around since 1811, that’s 207 years. Whatever can be said about the book has already been said, and I always think there must be a reason this book is still standing the test of time. Thankfully with most Jane Austen novels I have read this generally is true, Pride and Prejudice still holds fast as my favourite classic of all time. But not all of them are as good as their reputation, and I think accepting that fact is something everyone must do. Just because that book is revered as a classic by almost every literary critic, it doesn’t mean it will appeal to your particular tastes. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, The Major of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, and Villette by Charlottle Bronte are books that I just could not make it through without a struggle. I thought that this is what was going to happen with Sense and Sensibility, but thankfully I was wrong.
I started this book all the way back in October 2017, and simply put it down in favour of something more exciting, and because I found the opening far too slow. It’s been a while since I read a classic like this and I had forgotten how it can often take a while for the story to progress. But I forced myself to pick it back up after binge watching North and South (2004), this had put me in a period drama mood, which definitely helped when reading Sense and Sensibility. I thoroughly enjoyed reading more Austen, and the story picked up later as the focused shifted more from Marianne and Willoughby to Elinor and Edward. Even though Marianne is supposed to be the more romantic heroine, the sensibility to Elinor’s sense, I enjoyed reading about Elinor so much more which helped me complete the novel.
Elinor was just a heroine that appealed to me more, she was quiet about her feelings and never let them influence other people or become an issue. She was deeply observant and caring, and I just felt like I could relate to her quiet steadfastness more so than Marianne’s dramatic personality. I wonder how I would’ve felt if I was still a teenager when I first read this novel, but we shall never know. I certainly enjoyed the sisterly relationship the most in the book, I was glad when the middle portion of the novel seemed to focus more on their relationship and the complexities of it with their seemingly clashing personalities; this could be because of my own close relationships with my sisters. This is where the book really shone for me, the romance didn’t hold a candle to that of Pride and Prejudice. Colonel Brandon and Marianne didn’t interact enough after the Willoughby situation for me to care whether or not their got together. I cared slightly more for Elinor and Edward, but I wish they had more interactions between her learning about Lucy and their happily ever after. I was more intrigued to read about Elinor and Marianne gaining a better perspective on each other and realising they weren’t as different as they both believed; the defensiveness they both held over each other was very realistic to me and a high point in the novel.
However, despite how much I loved this book I couldn’t quite give it 5 stars, one reason was definitely the slow start, but the other was the rushed ending. Austen seemed eager to tie everything up with a nice neat bow and it didn’t fit with the rest of the narrative. Now, I loved the character of Colonel Brandon, he was a great character and his friendship with Elinor included some of my favourite moments, and yet I don’t think that Austen should’ve married him to Marianne in the end. If they had more interaction I could probably see the appeal of their union, but it felt like a way to make sure that all her characters got the “happy” ending. I’ve heard the theory of Marianne being punished for her open heart by marrying him, but I didn’t get that vibe, I just think it would’ve worked better if it had been hinted they both found someone else. Marianne was not interested throughout the whole book and then suddenly she was; in short I wanted more proof that she wasn’t settling for someone safe after the heartbreak she suffered early on in the book. It was rushed, and there’s not much worse than a rushed ending. Even if it was one I was anticipating from the very start.
I’m very glad I got back to reading this novel and finally convinced myself to read it. I own a beautiful copy and it was just a perfect read for the mood I was in at that time. Although definitely not Austen’s strongest, I can see why people love it so much and would definitely say (now I’ve read 4 of Austen’s books) that it is one of the ones I would rate most highly.