“The more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!”
It was perfect timing that immediately after I decided to read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen this month in celebration of Austen's birthday AND the celebration of the novel's 200th birthday, that I was offered a stunning new edition of the novel for review. I waited patiently for it to arrive, and when it did, my jaw dropped. This is a BEAUTIFUL edition of a well-loved classic. All of the images you'll see in this post come from the book (my only regret is that I don't have a better camera to really capture the images). There will be more info on the edition at the end.
It has been a long, long time since I have read Sense and Sensibility. It was the second Austen I ever read, and while I can remember enjoying it, I didn't remember all the specifics.
Reading it this time around was like reading it for the first time. I was swept away by the language and subtle passion Austen weaves beneath the story of the Dashwood sisters. The sisters are somewhat opposite of each other. Elinor, the eldest, is wise and sensible. She remains firm and steady, thinking clearly before she speaks and maintaining a quiet and steady sense of purpose. Marianne, on the other hand, is full of fire and passion. She speaks her mind, defends her opinions, and seems to push the boundary of acceptability for a woman in her time period.
The novel is certainly about the romance and love surrounding the two sisters, and that discussion could last a whole post. And while I certainly plan to touch on that, in bits and pieces here and there, I really want to focus on the women.
Like Austen's other heroines, they are strong and likable. They push boundaries in their own way. In many cases, Marianne's character can be seen as more passionate and strong than Elinor. She is vocal, powerful, and gets wrapped up in her love affair.
“’At my time of life opinions are tolerably fixed. It is not likely that I should now see or hear anything to change them.’”
But what I really love about Marianne is that even when things get bad, she maintains herself. She remains passionate and open and loving to the people closest to her. She also grows. She learns from the mistake she made and learns that yes, a bit of sense would do her good. :)
Elinor, on the other hand, is the calm voice of reason and strength throughout the novel. She waits to be sure of anything. She never vocalizes her passion, but lets it simmer underneath. She loves, but it is a quiet kind of love, so different from the almost violent passion of Marianne. Elinor also realizes the importance of her role to those around her. She maintains a sense of propriety, even to those who really don't deserve her niceties (like, Lucy Steele?). Elinor does her best to make sure she doesn't offend any of those around her, even when they offend her.
“She was sensible and clever, but eager in everything; her sorrows, her joys, could have no moderation.”
I think, that the first time I read this, I was more focused on the story itself. How would the Dashwood sisters come out of the circumstances they found themselves in? Who would wind up with who? Would that jerk of a man get his due?
This time around, I was struck by the balance Austen struck between all of the characters in the novel. Of course, you have the two older Dashwood sisters who are perfect foils for one another.
But you also have the differences in the minor characters. I was interested in the contrast between Mr. Dashwood and his wife to the character of Mrs. Jennings. Mr. Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne's brother, seemed to shrug off the responsibility of his family, including his widowed mother, in favor of pleasing his wife. He found more important things to do than take care of those who actually needed his care. Mrs. Jennings, on the other hand, is an older woman who takes in the Dashwood sisters and offers them the comfort and security that their brother should also be offering. It was an interesting comparison that I noticed throughout.
The other piece I found extremely interesting about this reread is the simple depth of the novel overall. Again, on my first read of this title, I missed some of the pieces that show Austen's prowess as a young author. I have always brushed this title off as one of my least favorites. But that changed with this reading. I was struck again and again about Austen's little tricks in wordplay, as well as the beauty of single lines.
“Elinor could sit still no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease.”
After closing the back cover, I realized how powerful Austen's first published novel actually is. It moved me far more than I expected. What I first thought was a simply story turned into something much more meaningful. I will be thinking of this one for quite some time, and I am sure I will be rereading it sooner rather than later.
It was the perfect way to celebrate Austen's birthday.
“When I fall in love, it will be forever.”
A huge thank you to Trafalgar Square Publishing for sending me a copy of this beautiful edition! For those of you interested, this hardcover will be released in January 2012. The illustrations were done by Niroot Puttapipat and there is also a wonderful introduction and essay by Katharine Reeve (both are fabulous-the essay talks about Bath's influence on Austen!).