‘Sense and Sensibility’ by Jane Austen

If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, why the heck not??) you may have seen me rant about my recent read, Sense and Sensibility. It’s one of my 2013 leftovers and that’s for a reason. This story is so utterly and painstakingly boring. Ugh. I understand there are people out there who will love this story only I am not one of them.

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To this day, I have read almost every Jane Austen novel there is and I have mostly enjoyed them. It may have been a while since I read my last but even Northanger Abbey wasn’t as dull as Sense and Sensibility, at least not in my memory. Even Emma, with which I struggles at first, turned out quite pleasant in the end but this? Nope. All these words above are there to explain, it took me forever to read this one. I don’t even remember when I started it, but I took a break for most of the end of 2013 from it to read books that were more interesting.

My problem with Sense and Sensibility mostly lies in the story and characters and isn’t that basically everything there is to a story? I think so. It took me ages to understand that Elinor and Marianne were actually two different characters, the latter one in love with the brother of her sister in law. Only Edward seemed like a little prick throughout most of the story. Sure, he (kind of) redeems himself in the end but I don’t like him. What is supposed to be some great love story between them is actually pretty unromantic in my opinion.

Then there is Marianne who is favoured by Colonel Brandon, a man 19 years older than herself. I know, I know, these were different times and all that blah blah but it’s just not my thing. Colonel Brandon is actually a stand up guy and the only character I truly enjoyed in this book, despite his interest in his child wife to be. However Marianne falls in love with young Willoughby whom you instantly know will be no good. Charming young man, can’t be right.

Most of the characters were pretty characterless and thus fell flat to me. All they did, all day, every day, was sitting around, meeting people and talking about their love lives and who was dating or marrying whom. For 400 pages. It’s just so repetitive and have I mentioned boring before?! There is nothing wrong with romance, I have read my fair share or romance novels but they need a greater story arc or else the whole thing hardly works.

I remember starting to read this novel before but I don’t remember if I finished it then. And that’s another problem with Sense and Sensibility; even while reading, I was already forgetting what had happened on the pages I just read, which is a terrible sign.

Now you may argue that I’m too harsh with my critique, that this was written in the late 18th century, many things were different back then, apparently certain people didn’t have to work for a living, they inherited money and that was that. Women were only there to obsess over what man fancies them, having back bones and interests or opinions were unnecessary, so why bother.

There are characters like the youngest Dashwood sister, Margret who exists but hardly gets mentioned, ever, until the very end. Marianne is quite rude in general, snobbish and Elinor is just so trapped inside herself that she doesn’t even tell her sister about her heartache. All in all this story feels like a test run for Pride and Prejudice. The sisters and their character traits in general. Only this one is so much less interesting than P&P.

When Marianne gets sick towards the end, I actually expected her to die because it would have meant that something happened. Something except for Willoughby’s half arsed attempt at redeeming himself. Even in Little Women, which is a children’s book, Beth dies (I cried and cried for pages about this) but not here. Of course Marianne gets better and why not add a bit of tragedy to this otherwise colourless story?

Well, as you can probably tell, I did not enjoy Sense and Sensibility. If you disagree with me, please don’t hate me and maybe tell me why you liked this. What about this story made your toes wiggle with excitement?

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  • I remember almost nothing about this book except how incredibly dull I found it. I read it almost six years ago and I’m certain I only got through it because of the incredibly different (see also: slower) pace of life I was operating on during my semester abroad.

    So no, this does not sound harsh to me! It sounds like it’s probably an accurate representation of my thoughts/feels, if I could remember them.

    • Wilhelmina Upton

      I’m always glad to learn I’m not alone. Others already assured me on Twitter I wasn’t too off with this. NOTHING EVER HAPPENS in this book. For 400 pages.

      I tried reading Persuasion while I was abroad but I never got to reading much there so I still have to read that one.

      • Persuasion is the last JA book I read an I loved it. Northanger Abbey feels every bit the youngest novel (which isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it) and Persuasion feels every bit the oldest. I’m glad I read it last, tbh, because you can sense the way this story emerged from Austen’s earlier novels. Her heroine is a little more meek than, say Emma or Elizabeth, but every bit as present on the page. (Unlike S&S or Mansfield Park, which.)

        • Wilhelmina Upton

          Interesting, Persuasion will also be my last. It’s on my to read list but I’m not sure when I’ll get on it. I actually didn’t dislike any of her other books like I did S&S.

    • Melbourne on my Mind

      It’s interesting that you guys both really enjoyed Emma and found S&S dull where Emma is my least favourite Austen book and I quite like S&S (I mean, it’s probably fourth in a ranking list, so I don’t LOVE it. But I found it surprisingly fast paced when I reread it at the end of last year)

      • Wilhelmina Upton

        All I remember about Emma is that I struggled with it for the first third of the book or so but it got better afterwards. Not sure how my verdict would be if I read it now though.

  • cupitonians

    I actually loved all her books even though they’re identical. But then again, I read it when I was 14 and back then, I was really into the big, boring stuff! :D Not sure I’d enjoy it as much now!

    • Wilhelmina Upton

      This is really the only one I couldn’t stand at all. Persuasion I still have to read but the others were fine with me. But I’ve read them spread out over many years now and who knows if I’d enjoy them now too.

  • So I liked this story until theast 10 pages. I LOVED Elinor- I saw a lot of myself in her. But I was so disappointed in the ending. I actually really wanted her & C. Brandon to end up together. Marianne drove me crazy, but I did admire her somewhat for pure passions sake. But how her & Brandon would live happily ever after is impossible to me.

    • Honestly, I didn’t retain much of this story. I don’t know who the characters you mention are which is a bad sign.