Sense and Sensibility: A book review

I've been doing a lot of reading this summer because, often, it's too hot to do much of anything else. These last few days I have been deeply immersed in the early nineteenth century world of Jane Austen.

What can I possibly say about Sense and Sensibility that hasn't already been said a hundred times before? The story is too well-known to even require a synopsis.

Although I had never read the book, I have seen the Emma Thompson movie several times and it is fairly faithful to the book. I loved that movie and it is firmly entrenched in my brain, so much so that, as I read the book, I heard the dialogue spoken in the voices of Thompson, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Hugh Laurie, etc. It made for an interesting experience.

One reads Jane Austen for her keen observations of human nature, her humor, for her exposition of the role of women in the society in which she lived, and especially for the beauty of her language. As that language flows over one's consciousness and rolls off the tip of the brain, one can only despair that the state of the language has fallen so far in the two hundred years since the literary works of Austen.

Sense and Sensibility was, of course, the first published work of Austen and was the story of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor (sense) and Marianne (sensibility). She went on to write a considerable set of literary works that would be the pride of any writer and she holds a well-earned spot in the pantheon of English literature greats. Sense and Sensibility alone might have been enough to ensure that spot. It is an almost perfect book. The only false note, at least in my estimation, was Willoughby's visit to Cleveland when Marianne was seriously ill. I think that Austen just could not bear to have Willoughby so completely a scoundrel and wanted to give him a chance to redeem himself. But his conversation with Elinor shows him truly to be just as selfish and self-absorbed as ever, despite his professed feelings for Marianne, and, as far as I was concerned, it could have been omitted. But that is a small quibble.

This is a wonderful book. There is so much richness here. It is as relevant today as it was in the early 1800s. Having stood the test of time, it has earned the label "classic."


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