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Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility  - Jane Austen Sense and Sensibility is a lot like a Fast & Furious movie, except there are no supercar races, gun fights, fist fights, robbery, and scantily clad girls. Come to think of it Sense and Sensibility is nothing like a Fast & Furious movie. I just had no idea how to start off the review.

Actually Sense and Sensibility is (seriously now) a lot like [b: Pride and Prejudice|1885|Pride and Prejudice|Jane Austen|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320399351s/1885.jpg|3060926]. What with the sisters, one stoic and worldly, one a little wild, impulsive and naive, not to mention the youngest one who is the Maggie Simpson* of the family and does not have much to do. Then we have the nice but immediately friendzoned gentlemen, the handsome cad and the twittering mom with the dollar GBP sign popping up in her eyes when considering her daughters’ matrimonial prospects.

In all fairness to Ms. Austen, the two books are not that similar, Sense and Sensibility is her debut novel and she later used some of the same elements to write her magnum opus (“Pride” that is). The book is entirely focussed on the two Dashwood sisters Elinor and Marianne and their felicitous relationships with men. This is not the kind of book you should put through the Bechdel test because the ladies herein very seldom talk about anything else except the men in their lives. Still, you never have to wonder what the ladies in this book do in their spare time because all their time seems to be spare time, [a: Thomas Hardy|15905|Thomas Hardy|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1429946281p2/15905.jpg]’s heroines seem to have much harder and more productive lives. Still, I don’t want to put too much of a negative spin on Sense and Sensibility because it is a pleasure to read in spite of its flaws and low stakes.

Jane Austen is brilliant at writing silly, twittering, meddling women who actually mean well but never stop talking except when they are listening through the door and completely misunderstanding the snatches of conversation they could hear. Mrs. Jennings, a friend of the family, is my favorite character in the book, she can always be relied upon to hilariously bark up the wrong tree. Curiously characterization is both a strength and a weakness of this book. The “good guys”, namely Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon, are awfully dull, semi-zombified gentlemen. Whereas Willoughby the cad is lively and always game for a laugh. Sir John Dashwood, who is somewhat of an antagonist, is not so lively but he is hilariously tactless and shallow. Our two heroines are both too nice and are no match for the almost-femme fatale Lucy Steele.

Jane Austen is at her best when she is skewering people in polite society and terribly inhibited gents:
“The nature of her commendation, in the present case, however, happened to be particularly ill-suited to the feelings of two thirds of her auditors, and was so very unexhilarating to Edward, that he very soon got up to go away”

Unexhilarating! LOL! Then there is this bit which is worthy of a high five:

“she did not really like them at all. Because they neither flattered herself nor her children, she could not believe them good-natured; and because they were fond of reading, she fancied them satirical: perhaps without exactly knowing what it was to be satirical; but THAT did not signify. It was censure in common use, and easily given.”

I started reading Jane Austen to find out what the fuss is about, why do the studios keep adapting her works for films and TV? Initially I did not get it, her storylines always seem inconsequential to me but I have always liked her beautiful prose so I keep coming back to read more. With Sense and Sensibility it finally clicked for me. The snark! Beneath the Victorian politeness and sense of decorium Ms. Austen was a fabulously snarky lady. Having come to this conclusion I am practically ready to join the rank of the Janeites. I already have a bonnet, with several bees in it.

* and her name is Maggie Dashwood! (sort of)
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Notes:
It’s kind of a shame that the multiple Oscars winning 1995 film adaptation cast the excellent Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant as the nice but awfully boring gentlemen. Emma Thompson is spot on as the super competent Elinor Dashwood though, and Kate Winslet is always worth the admission price.

GR's Sense and Sensibility Quotes page is full of pithy lines, I think it misrepresents the books as something overly earnest or serious. Sense and Sensibility is, for me, a hoot.

Special thanks to the fabulous Ms. Karen Savage for her gracious and beautiful narration of the free Librivox audiobook edition of Sense and Sensibility. She could narrate a laundry list and I'd be happy to listen to it.