After worshipping Pride and Prejudice for many years I downloaded the collected works of Jane Austen on my kindle, and whilst Sense and Sensibility hasn’t overtaken my former love, it certainly put up a good fight. The title is equally significant, with the lovely Elinor representing everything to do with sense; she is cautious, thoughtful and reasonable, the total opposite to her mother and sister who are prone to frequent bouts of intense emotion, irrationality and hastiness! I love the narrator’s subtle yet constant sarcasm; many passages of the novel are vastly enhanced by the little digs and twists underlying all the pleasantry. This aspect enables the reader to laugh out loud at some moments, despite it not being funny in the traditional sense of the word. I feel this is vital as although the book is fairly character-driven, which I like, most of the characters need to have some sense shaken into them. The way that they go through life in a whirlwind of hopeless optimism, impractical notions and excessive melodrama did make me a little frustrated at times, but these snarky undertones saved it in that respect. Austen’s gift for satire shines throughout the novel as polite conversations veil mean intentions; what matters more is what isn’t being said. I enjoyed taking time to read each scene without rushing, to unravel each conversation and work out what was genuine? Was it all false politeness? Taking this novel at my own pace let me read into what wasn’t written.
I was also struck by Austen’s talent in writing full, engrossing stories about characters who don’t really do anything. They spend money, gossip and socialise, but they are nearly all leisurely rich and consequently any real work is only hinted at, never appearing ‘on-stage’ as it were. For the most part, the sole aim of the characters’ lives is to marry respectably and for money, yet Austen manages to make the plot interesting and intricate, yet never convoluted. Amazing! Sense and Sensibility really became alive for me after the first third or so; there is drama round every corner with hidden pasts revealed and complicated loves unravelled before Elinor and Marianne find their Mr Right – and when they do, it is well worth the wait.