Sense and Sensibility was Austen’s first published novel and the third of hers I read. I must admit, I did not like it very much at first. I found it too somber compared to some of her other works. I liked Elinor well enough, but Marianne annoyed me to no end. The men weren’t that great either. Willoughby was doubtless a scoundrel, Colonel Brandon was boring, and Edward was a spineless wimp. That’s not to say I did not like the book, far from it. Just in comparison to other Austen novels it didn’t hold up.
All that changed on my last rereading this year. It was such a surprise to see all the humor in the book! How did I not notice before? Yes, it does deal with some dark subjects but there are more than enough funny moments to go around. Mrs. Jennings stands out in particular, especially the scene where she overhears bits of Colonel Brandon and Elinor’s conversation. Brandon is of course, telling Elinor he intends to give Edward the living at Delaford. But Mrs. Jennings, not wishing to “eavesdrop”, can’t hear everything and jumps to other conclusions. Another funny scene is a man taking forever to pick out a particular toothpick case in a shop, who turns out to be none other than Robert Ferrars. And I must not forget to mention Elinor! Anyone who imagines her as all prim and proper from the movies should take a closer look at the book- she is full of snark! It made me love her even more.
My opinions on the men changed as well. Not Willoughby, of course. But on closer reading one notices that Colonel Brandon, while he may seem “stuffy” is actually quite the romantic. And Edward really is an honorable man. Yes, you all want him to just dump Lucy for Elinor but he felt he was actually doing the right thing by Lucy in keeping his promise to her. And there was the fact that she could have sued him for breaking the engagement…And he’s not really so dull either. I noticed he even teased Marianne about Willoughby at one point. He did have some personality after all!
So, all in all, the male characters are not my favorite of Austen’s heroes, but I do appreciate them a great deal more. Marianne does still annoy me at the beginning but I feel for her more now, and admire how she realizes the error of her ways in letting her sensibilities take over all the time. The relationship between Elinor and Marianne is really well-written, more the focus than either of the romances. Austen’s writing skills were not quite to the level of sophistication that she would achieve with her later works like Persuasion, but still pretty darn good! So, if you already love the book, good for you. If you don’t, I recommend rereading and keeping in mind the things I noted in this review. I hope you’ll learn to love it as I have.
My Rating: 9/10