Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Book Review of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Bantam classic
Type of book: England, classic, Regency, marriage novel, sisters, 1790s? 1800s?
Year it was published: 1811
In 1811, Jane Austen's first published work, Sense and Sensibility, marked the debut of England's premier novelist of manners. Believing that "3 or 4 families in a country village is the very thing to work upon," she created a brilliant tragicomedy of flirtation and folly. Romantic walks through lush Devonshire and genteel dinner parties at a stately manor draw two pretty sisters into the schemes and manipulations of landed gentry determined to marry wisely and well. Neither sense nor sensibility can gurantee happiness for either- as romantic Marianne falls prey to a dangerous rascal, and reasonable Elinor loses her heart to a gentleman already engaged. Wonderfully entertaining yet subtle and probing in its characterizations, Sense and Senbility richly displays the supreme artistry of a great English novelist.
The characters aren't on the flat side, but it would have been a good read if there would have been more explanatory notes about the sisters and other characters. I had a very hard time understanding them. Why exactly are Lucy and her sister considered bad?
Give something undesirable a chance, you'll never know how it will end up.
This is written in third person narrative, from Marianne and Elinor's point of view, although mostly its from Elinor's point of view. Its important to keep characters in mind and refer to the first few chapters to know who's who.
Jane Austen was born on December 16th, 1775, in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, where her father was rector. She was the seventh child in a boisterous family of six boys and two girls. Reading and playacting were favorite family pastimes, and Austen began writing as a young girl. Her Juvenilia, writen between 1787 and 1795, survive in three notebooks and include Lady Susan, a short novel-in-letters. In 1796 she completed another epistolary novel called Elinor and Marianne, later revised to become Sense and Senbility. In 1797 she finished the first version of Pride and Prejudice, called "First Impressions". Northanger Abbey, the last of the early novels, was written in 1798 or 1799 as "Susan."
Until 1801, when her father retired and the family moved to Bath, Austen enjoyed a comfortable life, mixing in the best society in the neighborhood, keeping a carriage and a pair of horses, and attending dances at the stately homes of the local gentry. Neither she nor her sister Cassandra married, but the reasons for this remain conjectural, as Cassandra burned or censored Austen's surviving letters after her death. The eight years following the move from Steventon were evidently unsettled and unhappy ones. The Watsons, her only writing from this period, was never completed. But from 1809, when settled again in her beloved Hampshire, until her final illness in 1817, she lived a productive life in a pleasant cottage in Chawton provided by her wealthy brother Edward.
In 1811 Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously: the title page stated only that it was "by a lady." Immediately successful, this first novel was followed by Pride and Prejudice in 1813 and Mansfield Park in 1814. Emma, written between 1814 and 1815, was "respectfully deidcated" at royal command to George IV. In 1816, already in declining health, Austen wrote Persuasion and revised "Susan" into Northanger Abbey. Her last work, Sandition, was left unfinished at her death on July 18th, 1817. Austen's identity as an author was announced to the world posthumously by her favorite brother, Henry, who supervised the publication of Northanger Abbery and Persuasion in 1818.
This was a difficult book to read and, to an extent, understand. Jane Austen is a talented writer, but I had a difficult understanding the humor, (to be honest I didn't understand any humor.) The life in Regency England is interesting, at least the way Jane Austen writes. There is an unexpected twist to the stories, and in honesty I wish to have been a witness as to how Elinor and Marianne got to know their potential husbands. I felt pretty bad for Marianne, that she ended up with someone else that she had no desire for. I think this is one of the books that needs to be read several times in order for it to be liked and understood.
2 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)