Advent with Austen

Sense & Sensibility Readalong, Part I

Welcome to part I of the Advent with Austen Sense & Sensibility Readalong! If you’re new to Advent with Austen and want to read more/sign up to be part of the fun, read this post; if you want the schedule for Sense & Sensibility, read this post!

Part I was a fairly undemanding little chunk, 9 chapters of a 50-chapter book; I covered it in two commutes.

I had forgotten just how beautiful and sharp Austen’s writing is. I found myself annotating whole paragraphs, most of which start out as astute social commentary and end with that delightful hint of snarkiness via which Austen pokes a little fun at her landed gentry:

“such attractions as are by no means unusual in children of two or three years old; an imperfect articulation, an earnest desire of having his own way, many cunning tricks, and a great deal of noise.”

Like Alex said, as you get older you expect to like Elinor more and Marianne less. While it is easy to feel sorry for Elinor, stuck as the guardian of the family pursestrings, forced by family necessity and her mother’s sensitivities to move to the other side of the country from the man she loves, Marianne doesn’t irritate me as much as I thought she would (and as much as I remembered her irritating me the first time I read S&S). Of course we know that her romantic notions

“He admires as a lover, not as a connoisseur. To satisfy me, those characters must be united.”

will cause her all manner of trouble, but who among us does not have such a friend who wants romance to be all fireworks and swooning lovebirds and not so much about just being together?

And Elinor clearly trusts Marianne and seeks her counsel (as Jane does of Lizzie in P&P), so I will have to try and see Marianne’s side of things too.

As one does, I had more or less forgotten the subsidiary characters. Mrs Dashwood really does irritate me – she’s an older but not wiser edition of Marianne and I find it difficult to believe that a man as wise and gentle as Henry Dashwood is given out to be in the first few chapters would marry someone so fluffy and useless. Margaret – there’s a third sister??? Seriously, I had NO IDEA there was a third sister until I started this re-read. And as for the Ferrars lot (and I include John Dashwood in that group, married as he is to Miss Fanny Ferrars, Instigator of Much Trouble), again I had forgotten all the politicking and “Elinor’s not good enough/rich enough/pretty enough/whatever enough” for Edward and Edward being a bit slow with the demonstrations of affection and all of that. So I am looking forward to more about them later on.

Earlier this week, Litlove posted about Sense & Sensibility and about the Emma Thompson film adaptation, and I cannot wait to watch this on Sunday 18 December (see Alex’s post on the Twitter movie nights)!

Do join in the chat below!


18 thoughts on “Sense & Sensibility Readalong, Part I”

  1. I also noticed that paragraph about the 2-year-old boy 🙂

    Agree about Mrs Dashwood. She borders on the irresponsible, considering her $ituation and having 3 unmarried daughters to support. I’d probably have sat down with John and shame him into more money, even if I needed to swallow my pride.

  2. About Mrs. Dashwood, the part where we can see this irresponsible side of her really well is when they’re choosing houses and she can’t seem to choose a good house, that’s not too expensive, without Elinor’s help. And that was sort of left out in the movie.

    In the beginning I was also expecting Marianne to irritate me, but she didn’t, not all the time at least, basically only when she’s talking about Colonel Brandon in chapter 8. Apart from this things I’m liking the book very much!

    1. Yes her opinions on poor old Brandon are a bit hard to take, aren’t they! But I quite like how Austen presents them: realistic for a 17-year-old to think, and yet totally wrong.

      1. It’s also very in tune with her passionate personality, that she sees in Willoughby the perfect man for her and he’s nothing like Colonel Brandon, especially his age.

  3. I had forgotten how early Edward and Elinor’s romance happens in the story – and I’d forgotten how low key it is. It’s practically outside the narrative. And what I want to know is how come Edward is so nice when the rest of his family is so appalling? Not that I’ll ever get an answer to that one exactly, but still. I never found Marianne irritating, but then I was a bit of a Marianne myself in my youth, and grew out it, as I suppose we all must. Does any one else wonder what kind of opinion Jane Austen had about men generally? Only it seems to me fairly low in this novel – Dashwood pere dies without leaving proper provision for both families, Dashwood fils is a spineless twit, Edward is an opaque (and ultimately highly fallible) ostrich with his head in the sand, Sir John is a social monster and Willoughby is a wolf in lamb’s clothing. Not much to recommend any of them! But then Jane gets to be funny and witty about them all, so that is consolation!

    1. A very valid point – does Jane write any good men? Of course she does (Darcy, Wentworth etc) but I think she likes to explore the misconceptions and how these men appear to women at first. But you’re right, they’re all pretty useless in this novel! Maybe she had just been spurned when she wrote S&S and was taking revenge on the male gender?

  4. I love Mrs. Dashwood. While reading, I found myself comparing her to Mrs. Bennet. She so clearly loves her dayghters and wants them to marry for love, not fortune. (Though I imagine Mrs. Bennet loves her daughters too; she just equates fortune with happiness.)

    Did you mean to say Mrs. Dashwood is like Marianne? (You said Elinor.)

    I strongly identify with Marianne in this book — her romantic personality “makes sense” to me, though it has its set-backs for those around her. But while reading, I kept thinking, “Wow, I’d love to be like Elinor.”

      1. Just saw this! I can’t be disloyal to Elinor and pick Team Marianne, because I love Elinor! Though, I am pretty much exactly like Marianne. So if it’s about who we are — yup, Team Marianne. 🙂

  5. I’m reading along but due to lack of time I think I’ll just have to wait until I’ve finished the book to post my thoughts on it. I’m enjoying it so far, though I have to admit I am finding Marianne slightly irritating. I can definitely identify more with Elinor. It’s the first time I’ve read this book though, so I don’t know what’s going to happen and I suppose my opinions could change as I get further into the story!

  6. I’m a first time reader as well and one who was lacking time until now. I started it a day ago and have now read 15 chapters.
    It’s interesting to read the comments.
    I’m not too annoyed with the women, with the exception of John Dashwood’s wife. What a nasty piece of work that is. I truly do not like Willoughby though.
    I must say as admirable as Elinor is, I find her a tad boring.
    I wonder why she chose to add a third sister. Maybe we will know later on. At present she is too invisible for me to justify her presence.

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