“If you loved Pride and Prejudice, you’ll love this too!”
Everyone has heard of Mr Darcy and Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s most famous book, but to my mind Sense and Sensibility is every bit as good and I love it! Rereading it was like visiting favourite friends and no matter how many times I read it (or watch the film by Emma Thompson), I never get bored with it.
Jane Austen’s writing style is a little bit old-fashioned, obviously, but her descriptions, dialogue and general observations are very sharp and that makes this an easy novel to read. Ms Austen seems to have had a very dry sense of humour laced with sarcasm, which is very well conveyed by some of her characters and her comments about others. It is clear that she spent a lot of time observing her friends and acquaintances, taking note of everything about them, especially their faults. The characters are so well described, you really feel as though you know them.
Eleanor Dashwood is the kind of long-suffering, self-effacing, patient heroine who attracts our sympathy and empathy right from the start. We want her to be happy, and everyone she loves as well, and we want people to help her attain that happiness. Of course, there are many obstacles in her way, but Eleanor bears everything with quiet dignity and restraint, in contrast to her sister Marianne who shows every single emotion without reining herself in at all. The reader forgives Marianne, as she is very young and naïve (only seventeen when the story begins) and has no experience of the world. She’s also earnest and good-hearted, and does mature during the course of the story. But it is the deep, loving Eleanor we care about most.
As for the heroes – the dashing Mr Willoughby at first seems like the perfect one (at least to Marianne); handsome, charming, boisterous and fun-loving, as well as a knight in shining armour who rescues her when she’s hurt her foot. But the reader can tell – through Ms Austen’s acute descriptions – that he doesn’t behave quite as he ought to and there are little hints as to his character faults early on. Willoughby is essentially selfish and pleasure-seeking, and doesn’t care about the feelings of others.
Edward Ferrars, the man Eleanor loves (who for various reasons she apparently can’t have) is the complete opposite. He is quiet, calm, thoughtful and kind, and very human as he has made mistakes in the past which threaten his happiness in the future. Although he may not be as exciting as Willoughby, the reader is made to fall in love with him because he’s so honourable and because Eleanor loves him. He’s no Mr Darcy – he’s not exciting or brooding enough for that – but one can still see why she wants him and no one else.
Finally, there is Colonel Brandon. He falls instantly in love with Marianne, but as he’s much older than her, he doesn’t think he has any hope of ever winning her heart. To begin with, he seems a little bit dull to the reader, but this is Ms Austen being deceptive because Brandon has unseen depths which are revealed little by little. I may have been influenced by seeing him portrayed so well by Alan Rickman in the film, but to me, Brandon is the perfect hero – like Edward he is calm, quiet and kind, but he’s also dark and brooding like Mr Darcy, with a quiet strength that simply oozes from him.
All in all, there is so much to like about this story and for anyone who has read and loved Pride and Prejudice but never got round to reading Sense and Sensibility, I would urge you to pick it up too – I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do!
More to Read!
Check out our review of Northanger Abbey, also by Jane Austen.
Pia Fenton writes contemporary romantic YA stories and her Northbrooke High series features UK heroines clashing with US heroes in an American high school setting. The latest one is New England Dreams.