Completist author reading, Old School

1. Sense & Sensibility – 6/10

OK so the first week of the mission was a total failure: I made 85 pages’ headway on my first task. Admittedly I was hindered slightly by university exams, a return to a busy office after a two month absence, and the release of exam results, so I won’t be too harsh on myself. Week 2 was, until about 4 hours ago, equally literarily unrewarding. However, a few hours past the deadline for my second book, I have finished the first. I’m not too far behind schedule!

So, to Sense and Sensibility. The tale of two sisters – the elder (Elinor) is very sensible, rational, not prone to great tides of emotion, while the younger (Marianne) is much more melodramatic, given to those classic period-drama swoons and faintings – and their misadventures in love. Of course there is a complicated family situation, evil sisters-in-law, conniving rivals, fickle suitors… all the classic elements, as well as a happy ending. Austen has a very impressive skill for constructing romantic cliff-hangers.

What impressed me (and I do not remember being impressed by this in Pride & Prejudice when I read it seven years ago) were the beautiful turns of phrase. “The shades of his mind” and “truth was less violently outraged than usual” were my favourites, along with “she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational opposition”! I also took great delight at the eventual fate of the main villain – really the only end for him, but unexpected when it came. Austen’s lampooning of the insipid, rude, selfish bystanders among the characters is also distinctly enjoyable.

I have my objections too. Elinor’s sense apparently prevents her from ever suffering any outburts of emotion, well beyond the limits of the patience of anyone I know! Tempestuous Marianne suffers physically several times (a sprained ankle and a number of colds), while Elinor apparently has one of those miraculously healthy constitutions. Marianne has a relevation post-illness and repents of her former ways, and pre-revelation is just a bit too… dramatic. Like an opera diva. In addition, the speeches (particularly between the sisters) come across as overly lengthy, oratorial and therefore somewhat out of place. Maybe I am doing Austen an injustice and sisters really did speak like that once.

All in all, though, rather enjoyable – I think it suffered for being the first of my tasks, as I struggled to adjust my usual reading speed (about 140 pages an hour…) down to something slow enough to do justice to the prose. Let’s hope I can do better with the next!

By the way, I should mention I was reading a Folio Edition – beautiful red cloth spine and illustrations. And surprisingly, quite well designed for reading as well as just looking at!


2 thoughts on “1. Sense & Sensibility – 6/10”

  1. I want to re-read this one before the end of the year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its publication. I think that the reason why I don’t love S&S as much as I do other Austens is Edward. For a leading man, he seems incredibly subdued and lacking in charisma.

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