Book Review: “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen

March 11, 2010

At this point I feel like I could easily write a computer program to write a passable Austen novel. Sure, she’s droll and she invented an entire genre; she made social commentary where social commentary was otherwise essentially impossible for someone of her gender and station.

I’m just kind of done with Austen for the time being. Engagements and secret affairs and dances and going to London during the season. Families full of daughters. Country estates.

All good. All well-written. All in all an easy and quick read. The good guy generally wins. The good girl always does. The good girl then serves to deliver slightly heavy-handed moral allegory. Not that the morals are in any way not those that we should strive for–it’s just a bit of a pretty picture.

Highlights include the adolescent pleasure that the emotional middle daughter Marianne takes in the intensity of her deepest heartbreak, coming down with the inevitable serious fever after distraught, long, solo walks in wet long grass, moping in an estate’s chintzy, teen-pathos-eliciting, faux-Grecian ‘temple.’ Sir John Middleton with his sherry-fueled grins and hunting dogs makes a gorgeous caricature of the jolly English landed gentry.

Unlike in Pride and Prejudice, however, Austen’s jibes at the banal conceit of certain characters lack the subtlety that her later novels have. Funny, yes, biting, still, but so obvious as to be somewhat dulled in their impact. But, in its defense, the book’s characters, at least some of them, are flawed in some appealing ways: Elinor’s holier than thou moralizing, their mother’s mawkish mothery-ness, and Willoughby’s–well, I’ll leave it to you to find out about Willoughby.

3.0 stars

One Comment

  1. Jeff H. says:

    I will watch any screen adaptation of Austen as a rule. I have watched even Bollywood adaptations. I would would watch adaptiona of Auesten even if it starred Ahmadinejad instead of Colin Firth. I could write a Dr. Sueus book about my love of Austen.

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