I never would have read this book if it hadn’t been an ArtFolds. I bought three of these books last year. One went to my friend for her graduation party, one went to my husband’s classroom, and the other I’ve been holding on to ever since. Finally having time to read for fun, I picked it up. In truth, I just wanted to do the folding (picture below).
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Summary from Goodreads:
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 behaviour 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.
To be fair, I went into this book with my grumpy face on. I read Pride and Prejudice in high school and (unpopular opinion coming) I hated it. It’s not the story at all, it’s the style and the setting. I don’t like long complex sentences that interrupt themselves. I don’t like hearing about money and how someone have to marry someone to have inheritance and how some small social faux pas is going to cause mother to faint and an engagement to be broken. It’s so far removed from me that I have trouble caring about the characters. There were times I sympathized with Marianne or Elinor, but most of the time I couldn’t. It’s too far removed from my life.
I have no doubt that Marianne and Elinor were average women of their time and status. I believe that the things they were concerned about and thought of were expected and welcomed. However, I’m not Elinor Dashwood and I’ve never known anyone like Elinor Dashwood so it’s hard to say if she’s believable. I’m assuming based on the popularity of these novels that the characters are quite typical and based on other books of that era, I believe that they are. It only makes me glad I was born in 1990 and not 1790 because I find their concerns tedious and the men of the era unbearable. I understand that Willoughby was supposed to be insufferable and irredeemable, but I didn’t find him too different from all the other male characters. I just wanted to get past the men.
Elinor seemed to have a head on her shoulders, unlike her emotional sister. I think if Marianne had narrated I couldn’t have made it halfway through the book. I liked that Elinor was cynical. She never trusted Willoughby and barely trusted Colonel Brandon. She was sharp and seemed to be looking out for people to prove themselves to her. She was very different from all the other women around her and I appreciated that.
My biggest complaint with writing from this period (the early 1800s) is that I can’t relate to the characters and it ruins my enjoyment of it. I know I’m going to get a bunch of hate for this because the story is about finding your true love and heartbreak, but the formality of courtship in the era and the relationships between men and women are so different from today that it’s hard for me. I understand there is love there, but the formal language and customs it’s wrapped in make it look like something different to me and I can’t find love through it all.
Maybe it was because I was stuck on a plane, but I found the part where the sisters visited London to be a faster read than the rest of the book. Being in the city, there was more action and more characters going on during those scenes and I was able to read the middle half of the book quickly.
I thought the plot with Willoughby was overly dramatic and I got annoyed with it quickly. He took up such a large part of the book that I’d almost forgotten who Edward was by the time he reappeared in the book. It felt like a distraction to read his story when it was obvious Colonel Brandon was a much better character. I kept focusing on him instead.
Everything I’ve read says this is a story of true love. Honestly, I don’t agree. I find it hard to think that two people are truly in love, even some couples that have been married for years. I think love and marriage in this book is a matter of convenience, family connections, status, and money. Several marriages seemed to be made for financial reasons and even those of our heroines had some level of inheritance involved. To me, it’s like saying that royal marriages in the 1500s were for true love, not to keep royalty within a few families. They didn’t know each other well at all and, at a minimum, it’s a true infatuation, but I wouldn’t call it love.
Writer’s Takeaway: I couldn’t stand the writing structure. Whole paragraphs were made from one sentence with four parentheticals and two asides. It was frustrating and hard to follow. As someone trying to write for a YA audience, it’s important to remember that this type of sentence structure is going to frustrate a young audience even faster than it frustrated me. I need to keep a simple construction. That doesn’t mean at all that the sentences are short or ‘easy,’ just that the structure isn’t as hard to follow as Austen. I would never want to map out some of those sentences.
The style and content were not for me, even if this is a historically significant novel. Two out of Five Stars.
Until next time, write on.
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