Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

 

General FictionHistorical Romance

Sense and sensibility Sense and SensibilityJane Austen; Barnes & Noble Classics 2003WorldCat

When Elinor and Marianne Dashwood’s father dies, his estate goes to their half-brother John. Their father requested that John make an endowment on his sisters and step-mother. When his father dies, John determines to himself the amount of the endowment for each. Then he talks to his wife, Fanny. By the time Fanny is done, John has been convinced that he will be carrying out his father’s wishes if he helps the women in food and lodging on occasion because they do have a small stipend, he wouldn’t want them to become extravagant, and running the estate is so expensive…

The feminine Dashwoods move to a cottage that belongs to Mrs. Dashwood’s cousin. Elinor and Marianne are now old enough to wed if they find the right men for them. Elinor falls for Fanny’s brother, Edward Ferrars. But she is not acceptable to his mother, who holds the family purse strings. Plus she learns a secret that shows he is not free after all. Marianne falls for Willoughby, a jolly and gallant young man without any money except what an aunt may leave him. He is a bit rakish but takes up all of Marianne’s time. Then, with no explanation, he leaves for London.

Marianne, impulsive and selfish, expecting Willoughby to return to her at any time. Elinor has to hide her disappointment about Edward even though well-meaning friends and her family tease her about him. They go on as young women do in the late 1700’s – they walk outside for hours, go to dinners at the nearby Hall, paint, and play the piano. They help their mother as needed, plus oversee the work of the servants.

One friend, Mrs. Jennings, is a nosy, friendly widow. She invites Elinor and Marianne to join her in London for the winter so they have a chance to meet men (hopefully Willoughby and Edward), attend parties and dances, and enjoy society. The girls quickly accept. While there, they watch both of their romantic notions disappear. By the time they must return home, they are extremely glad.

Sense and Sensibility is the first novel Jane Austen had published. It has as intricate a romance as any novel published today. Although the conclusion is fairly obvious to the new reader, it still enchants. People still sin; there are still gossips, scoundrels, cheapskates, out of wedlock babies, and pettiness. People are still good; there are friends, acts of kindness, supportive families, and giving people.

The tone is light even at the darker moments. Sense and Sensibility is 200 years old, so has a lot more scenery and background than might be found today. That background doesn’t detract; instead it completes the novel. While the setting is dated, the situations aren’t. Even at the age of 20, Austen knew people’s personalities and traits. I was especially struck by the constant talk of income – the worth of a man or woman was known in pounds as much as in personality. The monetary worth was a major consideration in marriage and openly acknowledged.

Now I have to go back and watch the Emma Thompson movie again. Sit back with this book and enjoy. I certainly did!

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