Book review: ‘Sense and Sensibility’ by Jane Austen

‘Sense and Sensibility’ by Jane Austen

I read this novel thanks to a drunken deal I made with my sister-in-law. We had been talking favourite authors down the pub, and agreed to send each other some books to read. So she received some Kathleen Jamie, and I ended up with, erm… Jane Austen.

That would be the same Jane Austen who notoriously replaced my hero, Charles Darwin, on the back of the ten pound note. That would be the Darwin ten pound note that I personally campaigned for. I like my sister-in-law, but you can only push a disconcertingly handsome, mild-mannered brother-in-law so far.

Sense and Sensibility is about two late-eighteenth-century sisters, Elinor (the one with more sense) and Marianne (the one with more sensibility). The novel is written primarily from Elinor’s point of view, supported by a laundry list of gentry who seem mostly concerned with each-other’s incomes, and about being seen to be conducting themselves with due decorum.

There’s a nice humorous bit early on in which Austen, through one of her characters, has laugh at the expense of contemporary aesthetic types who had a fascination for the ‘picturesque’ ideal. She’s also amusing when conveying information about certain characters’ limited educational backgrounds through their dialogue. (Unfortunately, one of these characters is the only servant in the whole novel to get to say a few words.)

The best line in Sense and Sensibility is, without doubt, “But, my dear, we must touch up the Colonel”. This made stuff come out my nose, and I immediately added it to my short list of Fnaar-fnaar moments from literary classics. (No, I really do maintain such a list: ask me the one about Virginia Woolf’s boobies at some point.)

All joking aside, Sense and Sensibility was far better, and far more enjoyable than I expected. Which is just as well, as my sister-in-law very kindly took it upon herself to send me The Complete Novels of Jane Austen, rather than just this one. So I have six more of the damn things to go. I think I’ll try to read one a year. It is, I am reliably informed, possible to get too much of a good thing.

You might be wondering what on earth I told my sister-in-law. My feedback went as follows:

Finished ‘Pride and Prejudice’ last week… It was just like Jeeves and Wooster without all the ‘What-ho?!’s

(I didn’t mean Pride and Prejudice; I meant Sense and Sensibility. But I suspect the feedback would have been the same.)

Actually, come to think of it, I think I might have to buy the sister-in-law some Jeeves and Wooster next, so she can confirm my insightful analysis.

Recommended. (No, seriously.)

Note: I will receive a small referral fee if you buy this book via one of the above links.


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