Book Review: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Ruby Sutherland
November 29, 2022

Genre: Classics / Romance / Literary

Perfect for when you’re in the mood for: sarcastic wit, romance and savage takedowns

A Sensible History

First published in 1811 by a lady, this is what Bridgerton tried to be (we all do things we regret; one of mine was suffering through all eight episodes and picking it apart like the nerd I am). Sense and Sensibility is the first novel of seven published by the quick-witted absolute-slayer-with-the-quill Jane Austen. That being said, Austen does have her critics. Charlotte Brontë was quoted describing this debut as, ‘a carefully fenced, highly cultivated garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers; but no glance of a bright, vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh air, no blue hill, no bonny beck.’

Photo of Ruby's copy of 'Sense and Sensibility' propped up between fancy china and the Austen bust.

I have always loved a good period drama and was first exposed to Austen when my mum made me watch the 2005 movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. After I saw the film, I became obsessed with Austen. So much so that when I was in England for a rowing competition, I dragged my mother on a Jane Austen tour, where we frolicked through the countryside in search of where Austen lived, grew up and wrote most of her novels. We ended at the Jane Austen museum. To physically see what Austen portrays in her novels with your eyes is an incredible experience. I did see Austen’s small round table on which she wrote all of her novels, and the first thing I thought was, ‘God damn, not great for posture.’ I went straight to the gift shop and left with a swanky bookmark, which I use quite frequently, and a bust of Austen. This also made me realise how commercialised Austen has become, and I do not think she would have been a big fan of this. I think a lot of Austen’s wit and charm gets lost, all in the name of capitalism.

My Five Cents

So here we are at the plot of Sense and Sensibility. It centres around the two Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, whose father has just died (what a way to start). As a result, the Dashwood sisters and their mother have to move. They take up residence in a cottage and start living their lives sketching and walking and sewing pin cushions and more walking. There’s a lot of walking, and talks of love and marriage while WALKING in a rose garden – at least that is something different. Marrianne, who is considered the ‘sensibility’ portion of the two sisters, while walking (I feel like I am repeating myself, but there is just so much walking. I might as well call this book ‘The Guide to Walking’ by Jane Austen), slips and sprains her ankle and is saved by the dashing and highly eligible Willoughby. Love starts to bloom . . . kind of (it’s a bit of a slow burn, but I don’t mind a slow pace). Drama of regency proportions follows Elinor, who constitutes the ‘sense’ of the book. She also has a love blooming . . . kind of (on and off again).

This book works at a quick pace that holds your attention. Most chapters are around two pages long, which, if you have the attention span of most Gen Z, isn’t very long. However, this book definitely is one of Austen’s early works. It does not have as much wit or charm as her later novels. I also do not think the characters are sketched out enough nor well defined enough outside of one being sense and the other being sensibility. I did further find that the book dragged towards the end, and it felt tedious to read. I was getting to the point where I was pleading for Austen to end it. All the drama had happened and was over with, and it just kept going. It felt like when you have boarded a flight and it is delayed by three hours and the seat belt sign is on so you can’t get up but you also can’t use the bathroom as you are on an active tarmac. By the time I got to the last page, I wanted to get off this ride – it had outstayed its welcome.

A Sensible Conclusion

I would recommend Sense and Sensibility if you are like me and are reading the books in order (I like chronology) and wanting to begin with the first of Austan’s published works. However, as fast paced as this book is, it comes to a halt towards the end. I definitely think Austen got better at her craft as she went along (at the time of writing, I am making my way through Pride and Prejudice, and I can see the improvement).

My rating is 3.5 stars.

Illustration of three and a half stars drawn onto a torn slip of paper.

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