When I found out it was the 200th anniversary of this much celebrated classic, I immediately hurried to my bookshelf to check that I still had my, as yet, unopened copy. With a thrill of excitement, I found it among all of my other unread books. Now you may be shocked, but I have never actually read Sense and Sensibility. It’s one of those books that has been on my To Read list ever since I can remember, so it was nice to have an excuse to finally read it!
I loved the 1995 film adaptation when I was younger, even if I didn’t understand all the complicated love triangles. The pretty costumes and idyllic locations were what appealed to me most. So I was very happy to discover that the book itself recreated the lovely surroundings of the cottage at Barton with all the warmth that I remembered.
The story is about a widow and her three daughters who have to move from their grand family home of Norland, to make way for their step brother and his selfish wife when their father dies. Henry Dashwood, the legal heir to Norland, is persuaded by is wife to break the promise he made to his father to provide for his step mother and step sisters. And so it is that Mrs Dashwood and her three daughters leave their beautiful home and memories behind to settle in a much smaller and more modest property in Devonshire. The Dashwood girls are not greedy and make the most of Barton Cottage, even though it is such a change from what they are used to.
The Dashwood ladies are lovely and happy characters. With no interest in position or money, unlike most other characters in the novel who are constantly gossiping about high birth and incomes, you could easily imagine being close friends with the sisters. The eldest Miss Dashwood is Elinor, a calm and sensible girl who holds the rest of the household together. Unlike her sister Marianne, Elinor is always polite and proper in society (even if she does not feel it in her heart!) The slightly younger Marianne is a bright and bubbly girl with a passion for music and poetry. She does not do things by half and displays her emotions proudly. So when the dashing Willoughby comes along and carries her home after she slips while on a walk one rainy day, Marianne falls madly and deeply in love, and is not afraid to show it!
While Marianne and Willoughby spend time giggling and reciting poetry in each others company, Elinor worries about the propriety of such obvious flirtations. But she also has her own worries to deal with. When leaving Norland, she also left behind Edward Ferras, her sister in law’s brother. Having heard nothing from him since the move, Elinor can only assume that she imagined the spark between them in her last weeks at Norland.
One unhappy day, Willoughby leaves, with no clue as to when he might return. The distraught Marianne accompanies her sister and a family friend, Mrs. Jennings to London in the hopes of finding her love, but when she is snubbed by him at a party, it is up to the serious Colonel Brandon to tell the truth about Willoughby.
I love the way Jane Austen pokes fun at society and all rules and traditions surrounding it. She creates such a variety of characters, from the harmless old gossip Mrs. Jennings, to the manipulative Miss Steele and of course Fanny, the nasty sister in law. One of the main topics of conversation is marriage and it is interesting to see the different attitudes and opinions of what ‘a good match’ is. As a modern girl, I find it difficult to understand the idea of falling in love after a few weeks, let alone marrying someone because it would be good for the family. But when reading Sense and Sensibility, I let all of those modern ideas go and can’t help but get carried away by the romance of it all!
This is a novel full of assumed, secret, fake and wished for engagements, loveable and very unlike-able characters and some very desirable men. It is romantic and funny and will be enjoyed by any girl who has ever fallen in love or had their heart broken.
I read Sense and Sensibility not only to celebrate it’s 200th anniversary, but also to take part in Advent with Austen hosted by @readingwithtea. So take a look at her blog if you fancy joining in and having an awesomely Austen lead up to Christmas.