The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex.
***Read as part of the Through the Wardrobe Debut Novels Challenge***
As one of a pair of sisters, the tale of Sense and Sensibility has always been a story that felt very familiar to me – particularly as my sister and I, though close, are quite different personalities. Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are Austen’s focus in this tale of two sisters who are of marrying age but have been disadvantaged by a lack of inherited property and desirable income. The story follows these two women on their very different journeys to discover the balance of propriety and passion within the art of love in the Georgian era.
Despite the presence of all the typical Austen-ingredients, Sense and Sensibility definitely has the air of a debut novel and an author finding their feet. Austen’s social commentary and ability to find the humour within societal norms is classic to her style and therefore exceptional, as are her dialogical quips, but the plotline is slightly lacking compared with her later work. It’s not as tightly bound as Emma or Pride and Prejudice and therefore some of the narrative threads meander slightly causing a lot of narrative renegotiation to get them back on track.
Austen is one of my favourite writers and as I can almost quote Pride and Prejudice verbatim, it was really interesting to revisit the book that transformed her from a hobby writer to novelist. In previous readings and watching adaptations, I had always identified more with Marianne, as the younger and more dramatic sister myself, and yet in this reread I began to see more of myself in Elinor – it must be my age! Austen creates empathetic characters and I loved how the changes in setting from sumptuous Norland to humble Barton cottage to busy London meant some level of adaptability was asked of Dashwood sisters in response to their changing societies.
I think it is very easy fall into watching adaptations of Austen’s books and loving the stories for the drama on the screen – I know I do! But it was really lovely delving back into the where these wonderful stories came from and revisit the original text for, as strong as some of the adaptations are, I guarantee that there is something missing. I had forgotten the extent of Brandon’s good heart and the weak-mindedness of Willoughby as well as the strength of Elinor when faced with the condescension and general bitchiness of Lucy Steele.
Sense and Sensibility, though more measured and less refined than her later titles, is still a wondrously sumptuous novel that expertly depicts the relationship between family and sisters first and foremost. The characters are her forte and in reading they become your friends – read, indulge and enjoy!