Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sense and Sensibility

The title: Sense and Sensibility
The author: Jane Austen
Publication: Crown, 1981 (org. 1811)
Got it from: Mom, Easter 1996

Whenever anyone asked, "Do you love Jane Austen?" I would reply, "Of course!" I have, after all, seen all the movies. Often more than once, some more than four, five, six times. As for the books...

Crickets chirping.

Oh, dear. Herein lies my shameful secret. I do recall (vaguely) starting to read Sense and Sensibility around the age of 14, at least halfway completing Emma around 15, and reading the entirety of Pride and Prejudice when I was 18. That's it. For as much as I love the movies, as much as I love Regency romances, I haven't the books themselves.

So this summer, I'm out to change that. Picking up the hefty, thin-papered, fine-printed Complete Jane Austen my mom gave me eons ago, I'm going to read my way through the books. One a month, just like the Jane Austen Book Club.

May's selection (going in the order in which they are printed in my set) is Sense and Sensibility. This is an interesting place to start with me, because of all the JA movies Emma Thompson's 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility is the one I've seen the most. I estimate at least ten times, maybe more. It is also the first Austen ever wrote, with an early draft completed at the age of 19 in 1795. I've heard from various people that it's not her best work; it suffers in comparison to her later, great novels.

As I was reading, I was struck by two things. The first was that I was going to be picturing the actors from the 1995 movie in my head, even hearing them say their lines. Which is a shame, because I didn't get to see the characters the way I wanted to, from my imagination. The other is that I really enjoy Austen's writing. I definitely appreciate it more than I did during my brief readings as a teenager. In particular, her sarcasm is a hoot. She can really make some characters so memorable, so annoying and so obsequious with just one well-placed line. And with Austen, it's all about the characters.

I won't bother summarizing the plot, because it's so well-known, and can be found just about anywhere. Rather, I will say how much I enjoyed visiting these characters a little bit each night before I went to sleep. At first, I wanted to give some of them a hearty smacking. Particularly Marianne, when she talks about how a woman of seven-and-twenty could never hope of securing any man's affections, but also, later, Elinor for not standing up for herself. As the characters grow and learn, it's that much more rewarding. When they suffer terrible blows, it's that much more satisfying when it all works out in the end.

I'm looking very much forward to seeing Austen's writing develop even more and her stories become even more entertaining.

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