Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behavior leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love- and its threatened loss, the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.
Reviewed by Elena:
Starting with this post, I thought to recommend once a month a classic novel that readers of the Bookish Temptations blog might enjoy. I’ve always loved classics and my bookshelf is full of them. This month I decided to pick up the great book that is “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen.
Well, Austen is a favourite writer of mine. I first read one of her books (Pride and Prejudice) when I was 14 and it was love at first sight, or rather, read. I remember reading her books one after the other, and then starting them all over again…Yes, I’m weird like that. Of course, the way I looked at her books when I was a teenager is different from how I learned to look at them afterwards, with all the themes on society, behavior, class, etc, but they always remain near and dear to me.
I must confess that among Austen’s books “Sense and Sensibility” has always held a special place in my heart. The story focuses primarily on two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as they learn how to love and find happiness in a society that overlooked passion to favor status and class.
What I most enjoyed about this book is the dichotomy Austen presents us between the two sisters. They both fall in love, they both go through disappointment and distress, but they face up to all that quite differently. Austen makes Elinor stand out as the character who embodies restraint, reason and responsibility, the “sense” of the novel’s title, whereas Marianne seems to be all emotion and spontaneity, pure “sensibility”. Elinor conceals her affection for the man she’s always loved, Edward Ferrars, and when she learns about his engagement to Lucy Steel , she’s hurt but decides to hide her disappointment from her family. In contrast, Marianne openly declares her love for John Willoughby( yes, I know what you’re thinking. He’s quite a distasteful character) and when he leaves her all of a sudden, she’s overcome by grief and even falls ill due to her emotional breakdown.
Both Elinor and Marianne find their happily ever after at the end of the novel, learning from both their experiences, reaching a balance between reason and passion.
Austen’s writing style is easy to follow, despite the presence of some old-fashioned English (of course) and when I finished the book I asked myself which character I felt more drawn to, Marianne or Elinor? And which one I’m more similar to? Well, I invite you to read the book and see if some of the sisters’s features are part of yourselves as well. The reader finds himself pondering which is better- sense, passion or balance? And which one would we lean toward?
And now, some of my favourite passages:
“If I could learn but his heart, everything would become easy.”
“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”
“It is not time or opportunity that it is to determine intimacy ; it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.”
“She tried to explain the real state of the case to her sister. “I do not attempt to deny”, said she,’ that I think very highly of him-that I greatly esteem, that I like him.’ Marianne here burst forth with indignation: “Esteem him! Like him! Cold-hearted Elino. Oh! Worse than cold-hearted! Ashamed of being otherwise. Use those words again, and I will leave the room this moment.” Elinor could not help laughing. “Excuse me,” said she, “and be assured that I meant no offence to you, by speaking, in so quiet a way, of my own feelings.”
” I never wish to offend, but I am so foolishly shy, that I often seem negligent, when I am only kept back by my natural awkwardness…Shyness is only the effect of a sense of inferiority in some way or other. If I could persuade myself that my manners were perfectly easy and graceful, I should not be shy.”
” Elinor could sit still no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease.”
“Sense and Sensibility” is a book really worth checking out 🙂
A recommendation of another classic novel will be back next month.