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REVIEW: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Dear Ms. Austen,

I will confess right off the bat that I’m one of those readers who never “got” you. I tried to read Pride and Prejudice years ago, but gave up after a few pages because of your writing style. What can I say – I had less patience in those days with long, indirect sentences which seemed to use 20 words to say what could be easily said in five (hah! I’m one to talk on that score…). I read Emma a few years ago and honestly did not care for it. It wasn’t so much the language this time; it was the fact that there seemed to be about a dozen main characters and only one of them (Mr. Knightley, of course) appeared to not be a complete and utter twit. Emma herself was dumber than a bag of hammers, and every other character seemed to fall somewhere on the continuum between “moron” and “get any stupider and we’ll need to water you twice a week” (to paraphrase the late, great Molly Ivins).

Sense and Sensibility by Jane AustenI don’t really like reading about stupid people, so Emma frustrated me. Nonetheless, I picked up a copy of Sense and Sensibility recently, and though I started reading with some trepidation I soon found myself enchanted with the writing and the characters (though many of them are hardly any sharper than those found in Emma).

Sense and Sensibility, for those readers who don’t know, is the story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, sisters who encounter many obstacles on the path to true love. As with Pride and Prejudice, the title Sense and Sensibility is significant. Elinor, the older of the sisters, is ruled by sense – she is not given to great shows of emotion or passion, whereas Marianne, who to be fair is only about 17 during the time the story takes place, thrives on drama and grand expressions of emotion. Elinor is by far the more sympathetic of the sisters for most of the book, though some readers may, I suppose, find her coolness and perfection a bit off-putting. I found her very sympathetic, since as the reader we’re privy to her inner thoughts and realize how hard it is for her to maintain her calm facade at times.

The story opens with the death of Mr. Henry Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne’s father. Soon, their half-brother and his rapacious wife descend on Norland Park, the family’s estate, and take over the place. Mr. Dashwood had hoped to provide well for his second wife and their three daughters (Elinor and Marianne have a younger sister, Margaret), being that his son John was already wealthy from an inheritance from his late mother, as well as from having made a good marriage. But the estate had been passed down to Mr. Dashwood in such a way that he was unable to leave it to anyone but his son John, and so as an alternative he asked John on his deathbed to look after the interests of his stepmother and sisters. This leads to a rather hilarious conversation between John and his wife, in which they gradually whittle down the meaning of the promise John has made:

“Perhaps, then, it would be better for all parties if the sum were diminished one half. Five hundred pounds would be a prodigious increase to their fortunes!”

“Oh! beyond anything great! What brother on earth would do half so much for his sisters, even if really his sisters! And as it is — only half blood! — But you have such a generous spirit!”

Soon they have decided that this “generous spirit” only requires them to help the ladies find a suitable place to move to, and nothing more. In Mrs. John Dashwood’s opinion, the move cannot come too soon, for she is concerned about the connection forming between Elinor and her brother, Edward Ferrars, who is a frequent visitor at Norland. Mr. Ferrars is the eldest son of a wealthy family and his sister and mother have big plans for him that don’t include a quiet, modest non-entity such as Elinor.

Marianne also disapproves of the growing affection between Elinor and Edward, for entirely different reasons: she sees Edward Ferrars as too boring and passionless and cannot understand the attraction that Elinor feels for him. Marianne is not just set on being emotional and dramatic herself; she dislikes and distrusts anyone who does not wear his heart on his sleeve.

Soon the widow Dashwood and her daughters receive an offer from a distant relative for a situation in Devonshire: a comfortable and affordable cottage near the relative’s estate. They leave Norland with some regret (it has been their home for quite a while, after all) and embark on their new life.

Once settled in Devonshire, the Dashwood sisters meet a veritable host of new people, many of them very amusing (your gift for satire really shines in these characterizations, I think): Sir John Middleton, their jolly but rather silly benefactor; his wife, who thinks of nothing but her children, and Mrs. Jennings, the wife’s mother, vulgar and gossipy but with an unexpected heart of gold. They also meet several eligible gentlemen: Colonel Brandon, a friend of Middleton’s who takes an interest in Marianne (an interest not returned because she finds him to be even more of a dry stick than Edward Ferrars) and John Willoughby, a dashing young man who does attract Marianne’s notice.

There’s a lot going on in the plot of Sense and Sensibility; I haven’t even mentioned several major and minor characters (my favorite of which are probably Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, Lady Middleton’s sister and brother-in-law – he is gruff to the point of rudeness, a quality that his silly wife seems to delight in, insisting that he is “droll”). Nor have I really managed to dig very deeply into the plot. Suffice to say that there are a number of twists and turns to Elinor’s and Marianne’s romances; the story eventually moves to London and both sisters suffer a fair amount of heartache before each finds her Mr. Right.

I liked pretty much everything about Sense and Sensibility: the plot, which is intricate without being too convoluted (there are some unlikely coincidences of the sort that make the reader think that there must have only been a few dozen people in Regency England, but I can handle coincidences pretty well in a well written book – what might be unbelievable in a bad book feels symmetrical to me in a good one), the characters, several of whom have unexpected depth – even some of the villains are not entirely without nuance, and the writing, which is the very definition of droll (unlike Mr. Palmer). I loved this bit about Edward Ferrars’ controlling mother, who briefly disowns him:

Her family had of late been exceedingly fluctuating. For many years of her life she had had two sons; but the crime and annihilation of Edward, a few weeks ago, had robbed her of one; the similar annihilation of Robert had left her for a fortnight without any; and now, by the resuscitation of Edward, she had one again.

In spite of his being allowed once more to live, however, he did not feel the continuance of his existence secure, till he had revealed his present engagement; for the publication of that circumstance, he feared might give a sudden turn to his constitution, and carry him off as rapidly as before.

If I have any quibbles or criticisms of the book, it would be a slight sense of apprehension over the resolution of one of the romances (I don’t want to say more for fear of spoiling anyone – one of the pleasures of the book for me is that I didn’t know who would end up with who) and an occasional difficulty with the old-fashioned writing, which did feature the same long, indirect sentences that I tended to get lost in and have to reread to understand. Still, I feel such a sense of triumph and pleasure at being able to say that I am an official “Jane Austen fan”. I wonder which of your novels I should pick up next? I feel like I should try Pride and Prejudice again, but I know the story so well from film adaptions that I don’t feel as much of a sense of urgency. I’ve been warned away from Northanger Abbey, which doesn’t seem to be a favorite of even die-hard Austen fans. I’m thinking of either Mansfield Park or Persuasion. In any case, I am eagerly looking forward to reading your works again – no more trepidation for me.

My grade is an A-.

Regards,

Jennie

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has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

52 Comments

  1. Merrilee Faber
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:26:34

    Persuasion. It is by far the best of her works, and I love it even more than S&S. It is a very under appreciated work, but has the same wit, and a wonderfully likable heroine.

    The BBC adaptation is also amazing :)

  2. Katie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:36:46

    I have to second Merrilee. Persuasion is my favorite Austen. And the BBC adaptation is swoon-tastic.

    Despite being a self-professed fan, I’ve never read Emma, for the exact reason you pointed out. Emma herself just doesn’t seem like a very appealing heroine.

    That being said, I do, in fact, like Northanger Abbey, as I love both gothic novels and satires of them.

  3. Helen
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:39:04

    Persuasion, Persuasion, Persuasion!
    My favorite of her books.

    Then read Precious Bane by Mary Webb…..just cause I know you’ll love it!

  4. Kalen Hughes
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:41:42

    Persuasion. It is by far the best of her works

    Ditto!

  5. Katie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:43:59

    My favorite Austen is Persuasion as well (love it!). I did enjoy Northanger Abbey, especially as a romance reader, because it is a parody of gothic romances of the day. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much without the (many) footnotes that helped a modern reader understand some of the conventions of the time.

  6. Elyssa Papa
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 15:46:06

    Definitely read Persuasion next. It’s one of Jane Austen’s best.

  7. vib
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:00:44

    Do not read Mansfield Park, please. Fanny Price is a hideous prig of a girl.

    Northanger is actually fun IMO – the heroine is an idiot, but an-idiot-cos-she’s-teenaged – and the hero Henry Tilney is my fave of Austen’s male romantic leads.

  8. Phyllis
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:11:12

    Persuasion. Actually my favorite Austen. Well, I go back and forth between that and P&P.

    Fanny Price (of Mansfield Park) isn’t even enough of a character to be a prig, she’s a complete nonentity.

    And Emma… she’s not actually dumb, but she gets on my nerves so badly that I have a hard time reading it and have read it maybe twice.

  9. Ros
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:27:52

    Mansfield Park is my favourite Austen and Fanny Price is one of the fictional characters I most aspire to. However, from your review, it sounds as though you would be likely to enjoy Persuasion more, and probably Pride and Prejudice most of all.

  10. Magnolia88
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:29:59

    I’ll jump on the Persuasion bandwagon. I love P&P also, but you can try it again later after Persuasion.

    Those are probably my two favorites, along with S&S (and reading your review of S&S has made me want to check out the wonderful Emma Thompson adaptation, which, even though it takes some dramatic liberties, is pretty faithful and wonderful – even that scene you quote between the brother and his wife is kept in the movie, and Kate Winslet is perfection as Marianne).

    I’m not crazy about Emma either. I think I stopped reading it the first time around the time when they were talking about her painting the portrait of the silly friend. Oh, the portrait, the portrait, should she paint the portrait?!! Gah.

    You’re right, that book is full of silly twits. And I don’t think Mansfield Park or Northanger Abbey are much better, although it’s been years since I’ve even tried to read them.

  11. Jorrie Spencer
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:32:44

    I totally enjoyed reading this review! I need to reread S&S sometime.

    As for what to read next, well, Persuasion is also a favorite of mine, though a tad more melancholy than most of her work, I think. Not without humor and excellent characterization though.

    However, I’m also a big fan of Emma the book and Emma the person. I liked it that the heroine was the one who’s usually an annoying secondary character, and that Austen made me love her. Not to say that that is everyone’s experience, clearly.

  12. Meanne
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:41:39

    By all means, Persuasion!! It’s my favorite Austen…

    But don’t give up on Pride and Prejudice because even if you’ve seen all the other film adaptations ( which I have ), reading the book will only give you an added appreciation for Jane Austen’s talent… There’s something really magical about that book, once you get the hang of it…

  13. Gayle
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:42:01

    Start with Persuasion first. It has the most subtlety and her most mature writing (since it was her last book).

    I enjoyed Manfield Park. There is great debate on the character of Fanny Price. All of the action revolves around Fanny and only involves her occasionally. The narrator’s moral tone does turn off many readers of Mansfield Park.

  14. Donna Alward
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:42:42

    And another vote for Persuasion! Anne Elliot can grate a little as you want to shake her and make her stand up for herself, but it’s SO worth it in the end. I’ve never met such a heroine as makes me want to simultaneously strangle and hug her with sympathy all at once. And Captain Wentworth is my favourite Austen hero – even moreso than Darcy OR Knightley.

    In fact, when I was struggling with a book last year, a friend of mine said, “Donna, she’s Anne Elliot. She’s the constant.” And suddenly it all made sense.

    Great review. Northanger and Mansfield Park were my least favourites.

  15. Donna Alward
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:43:48

    And apologies for that horrid sentence above. It’s been a long day. LOL

  16. Jennie
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:45:14

    Persuasion it is then! Thanks for all of the advice.

    As for what to read next, well, Persuasion is also a favorite of mine, though a tad more melancholy than most of her work, I think. Not without humor and excellent characterization though.

    That’s what I’d heard – that Persuasion is a bit more serious and even downbeat than Austen’s other books. Though I think I can handle that, if there’s humor too.

    Then read Precious Bane by Mary Webb…..just cause I know you'll love it!

    Thanks for the rec! I’ll have to check it out.

    I’ll keep an open mind on Mansfield Park, given the differing opinions here on it.

    Regarding Emma, it wasn’t just that I found Emma annoying (though I did). They were almost all annoying. That book was chock-full of twits. Her father was super-annoying, IIRC. (In the interests of full disclosure, and probably telling you all more than you want to know, I did read the book while sitting vigil at my father’s deathbed. That may have affected my opinion of the book somewhat; I don’t know.)

  17. Moth
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 16:57:03

    Persuasion! Read Persuasion next!

  18. Castiron
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 17:08:19

    Mansfield Park is one of these books that people either love or hate. If you can accept Fanny Price as an extraordinarily well-behaved girl of her time and position (i.e. respectful, quiet, submissive, and aware that her uncle and aunt are doing her an enormous favor by rearing her), then you’ll probably enjoy it, and even if you think Fanny’s a total stick-in-the-mud, the book’s worth reading just for Mrs. Norris and the Crawfords.

    Disclaimer: I fall into the “love love love Mansfield Park and despise most of the film adaptations because they try to change Fanny into a more ‘interesting’ person” camp.)

  19. JulieLeto
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 18:51:45

    As I had the honor of portraying Fanny in a college adaptation of Mansfield Park, I give the book a big thumb’s up! I was a ravenous romance reader at the time and loved Fanny. She was not nearly as shiny as Elizabeth Bennett or Elinor Dashwood, but I liked her all the same.

  20. Julia
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 20:24:46

    I’m really not a fan of S&S. Persuasion is my favorite, followed by P&P. I’m one of the few who enjoys Northanger Abbey, because I appreciate it for what it is, which is more of a parody work and making fun of readers than a real romance. Mansfield Park I enjoyed until I started to analyze it and realize just how horrible most of the characters are, and what awful behavior it encourages. None of the male romantic leads are any good, and Fanny herself is just door mat.

  21. SonomaLass
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 20:54:33

    I love them all. Persuasion is her most mature work, I think, and is certainly the most serious. It’s also my favorite film adaptation of an Austen, with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds (swoon). My second favorite is S&S with Emma Thompson and the amazing Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon (more swooning).

    If you’re very familiar with the P&P mini-series (not included in the faves above, b/c it’s in a class by itself), reading the book will be very familiar. I’ve actually read along with the DVD, it’s that close! But if you haven’t watched that in a while, then reading it (now that you seem ready to appreciate her style).

    I like Mansfield Park, too. It’s silly and has the annoying character problem like Emma, but some of the minor characters are great.

    Welcome to the club!!

  22. Nalini Singh
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 21:19:17

    I’m another one who loves Austen all around :)

    That's what I'd heard – that Persuasion is a bit more serious and even downbeat than Austen's other books.

    I think while it’s a bit less “lively”, it’s also perhaps the most romantic of Jane Austen’s books – it is basically Anne & Wentworth’s story, with fewer tangents.

    I agree with SonomaLass about the maturity of Persuasion. There’s just something deeply satisfying about it.

  23. Kerry D.
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 21:30:40

    You don’t really need another vote for Persuasion but here it is anyway. Read Persuasion next.

  24. Moth
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 21:34:51

    @SonomaLass:

    My second favorite is S&S with Emma Thompson and the amazing Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon (more swooning).

    My only problem with that version is I sort of wanted Brandon and Elinor to end up together b/c Rickman and Thompson had such lovely chemistry in their scenes together!

  25. Kate Pearce
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 22:00:56

    Persuasion, definitely.
    Mansfield Park is hideous because the heroine needs a backbone and/or a good slap. I love Emma, it’s my favorite besides P & P

  26. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 22:48:00

    Altogether now: “You pierce my soul; I am half-agony, half-hope.” The most romantic letter ever written. Persuasion, FTW.

    I adore Henry Crawford. The ultimate immoral bad boy who falls for a woman who befuddles him but he can’t get enough….of Fanny Price. So I kinda like MP, but I certainly would never suggest that anyone start there.

    Seriously, read Persuasion, then try P+P again. You might “get” it this time. Then MP, then NA, then Emma one more time. But I’m with you, really. Can’t stand Emma. :)

  27. Carly
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 22:59:20

    Northanger Abbey gets a pretty bad rap, but I think it’s worth it just for Henry Tilney’s dialogue. He’s the perfect mix of pretentious and humble and a great parson foil to P&P’s Mr. Collins.

  28. CupK8
    Oct 22, 2009 @ 23:02:50

    I think you will really like Persuasion.

    I haven’t read Mansfield Park in a while, so I will have to give that one another go before giving my two cents about it, but I will say that I ADORE Northanger Abbey. I love parodies, and it certainly is that.

  29. Jennie
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 00:27:42

    Okay, you’re all confusing me now! Except for the consensus being that Persuasion is awesome.

    This has given me a general enthusiasm for 19th century satire by English female writers. I bought Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell a few weeks ago – I saw the PBS miniseries of it a couple of years ago and it was awesome.

  30. Valerie
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 01:09:07

    Really just echoing the insistent drone that you MUST read Persuasion next. it is wonderful…

    And I wanted to ad to the Mansfield Park debate: I love Jane Austen, I’ve even reread Emma, despite the tstl, but Fanny renders that book a wall banger for me. I’m sorry, but I need to ac tually find the protagonist interesting or engaging in some way to enjoy a book. I’ve tried to read it several times, and fail miserably every time.

    As far as P&P, while I love the book, more and more, I find that my urge to reread it is just as well satisfied by watching the Colin Firth in a wet t-shirt BBC adaption as by actually reading the book. (Never the Kiera Knightley version. That thing is a travesty)

  31. Tae
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 02:12:46

    also a huge fan of Persuasion, and I thought I was the only one who loved it more than P&P

    I think both TV versions are fine – Ciaren Hinds makes a great Capt. Wenthworth (he also played Mr. Rochester)

  32. silvia
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 02:25:27

    I will echo the Persuasion love.

    Mansfield Park… I find that this novel is very enjoyable as a period piece, just not a romance. Does the guy she ends up with really love her? The fact that this is something regularly debated tells you something about how emotionally satisfying the HEA is… But it’s well written in my opinion, and I think it’s very interesting in terms of a British class study and a look at the social mores of the time.

    Pride and Prejudice may be the story everyone knows, but the writing is just so fun and the story so enjoyable that I consider it a keeper.

    Note: If you haven’t seen the Sense & Sensibility movie I highly recommend both the movie with Emma Thompson and also the new BBC mini-series .

  33. Jae
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 02:37:33

    Persuasion is her most mature work, I think, and is certainly the most serious. It's also my favorite film adaptation of an Austen, with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds (swoon)

    This is a fantastic adaptation, and it really captures how difficult Anne’s life is due to her previous decisions. Persuasion is the only one of Austen’s books that feels like a book about real adults as opposed to a fairy tale, which is what Emma and Mansfield Park seem like.

    I bought Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell a few weeks ago

    The BBC did an amazing mini-series of North and South, also by Elizabeth Gaskell. You can see it on youtube: here.

  34. Diana Peterfreund
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 06:50:36

    Another vote for PERSUASION. It’s funny. P&P was my fave Austen for years, but as I grow older, I find myself drawn more and more to Persuasion. Perhaps it’s the maturity, or because I’ve always been such a sucker for a reunion story.

    If you want to watch a film version, I vote for the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hines version, which is great, OR the 70s BBC adaptation, which is fantastic, once you get past the avocado gowns and the Farrah Fawcett wings. The recent BBC adaptation is meh, not least because of the random tacked on “action climax” in which Anne Elliot goes TEARING through the streets of Bath to find Wentworth.

  35. Brussel Sprout
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 09:28:15

    Persuasion is my favourite Austen, although I do love P&P and Emma, and Mansfield Park. Her characterisation is so perfect, and I think what makes her so miraculous is that she depicts so many varied and terrible marriages (like the Palmers, whose marriage someone already mentioned), and yet we are so delighted when her heroes and heroines manage to marry the right person.

    For me, Austen is all about the wicked depiction of flawed individuals – and it is about making the right choices. Marianne in S&S is much more overtly lovable than Elinor, but her choices are poor and her responses to the consequences of those choices even poorer – she has the excuse of being a ditzy teenager, and she does learn her lesson, but I am never convinced that she grows up fully.

    They are wonderful books – but for my real desert island romantic novel, I’d take Middlemarch by George Eliot, which really has it all.

  36. Julie James
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 10:01:57

    Yep, another vote for Persuasion. Actually, that’s not entirely true–P&P is my favorite Austen novel, so I personally would give that another shot. But of the three you mentioned, Persuasion would be my recommendation. After that, Northanger Abbey, which has some gothic elements and was better than I thought it would be given some of the criticisms I’d heard. Mansfield Park is my least favorite–I had a really hard time getting behind either Fanny or the love story in general.

  37. Moth
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 11:18:54

    @Valerie:

    I find that my urge to reread it is just as well satisfied by watching the Colin Firth in a wet t-shirt BBC adaption as by actually reading the book. (Never the Kiera Knightley version. That thing is a travesty)

    Concur on all points.

  38. Polly
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 11:37:24

    You can’t go wrong with P&P, Mansfield Park or Persuasion. I love them all, and I wish there was a way I could somehow read them again for the first time. P&P is definitely the funniest all round, and don’t let the fact that you’ve seen the movies turn you away–the book is so much subtler and funnier. Mansfield Park is a great favorite of mine, especially for Henry Crawford (why oh why did Fanny not choose him!?). I find Fanny Price tiresome, and like her nonetheless. I think it’s the Austen that does the best job of being a snapshot of a historical moment. And Persuasion is simply a lovely book. I’ve read it over and over and it just makes me glad.

  39. V. Greene
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 12:02:18

    Gold star for putting Jane Austen and Molly Ivins in the same paragraph, for a start.

    For a lark you might try Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton. It’s very Jane-Austen-y but with dragons.

  40. April
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 16:29:21

    Funny how we all have our favorites. I actually found the heroine in Persuasion to be a little too passive, and while I adore P&P and S&S and reread them countless times, Emma is my favorite because even though the heroine is fairly smart and accomplished, she’s got a few blind spots. Not sure if anyone mentioned it yet, but Emma is actually the basis of the movie Clueless.

  41. Connie
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 21:49:47

    Well let’s break down all of her works to clear up the confusion – in order of my favorite (and I haven’t read all of them but watched all of the adaptation)

    Persuasion* tied with P&P
    I believe Austen wrote this last and it certainly reflects the maturity she probably has gained over the years of writing. The characters come from a more modest background (though Anne’s family may be a little delusional) when compared to that of P&P. For jaded romance readers, this one will probably hit all the right spots since the romance is subtle but you still can feel the “passion” (it’s weird to use the word for any of Austen’s books) between Anne and Wentworth.

    P&P
    This is by far the most popular literature of all time, and I think it’s because it’s got all the right elements that romance readers (or people who just appreciate literature) love. Our hero (Mr. Darcy) is sort of your typical wealthy, cold CEO-type personality and Elizabeth is your smart heroine with yet another modest background (where have I encountered these people…oh yeah EVERYWHERE). But this book has a lot of wit and humor. I didn’t actually truly appreciate P&P until I’ve read it 3 times! You just have to take the characters as they are and think of them as the spices to the main dish (Eliza and Darcy).

    Emma
    You know the move Clueless is supposedly a modern adaptation of Emma. I love Emma because…(well I first love Kate Beckinsale in the film adaptation) she is full of faults (which fits well with her situation) but she learns from her mistakes. She is smart and generally quick to act on her mistake, whereas some of Austen’s other characters really takes a long time to realize their problem.

    Northanger Abbey
    This one is just so cute (and so is the girl who played Katharine in the adaptation). This is supposedly her first work though published last. I think it really reflected what Austen’s was reading. I read somewhere that it was a common approach for a first-time writer…write something you read about. So she wrote a book about books! (I think I stole that statement from the aforementioned person.)

    S&S and Mansfield Park
    I never read these though S&S is up there in terms of popularity with P&P. I think it’s the second sister that I can’t get over…I like me girls to be unattached until they meet the hero — old school I know.
    The same goes for Mansfield – I really don’t like Fanny Price or Edmund for that matter. Though I do like the Crawford characters.

    Some other suggestions from other authors…most people probably already read these
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (OMG excellent finished in a day).
    Wives and Daughters – I only watched the film though, apparently the author didn’t actually finish the book. For some reason I always think of W&D as very similar to Mansfield Park.
    North & South – again the adaptation is great.
    Princess Bride – hilarious, I love all the tangents and I write a lot like that when I post on DA

    Wow long post :P

  42. Karen Scott
    Oct 24, 2009 @ 01:04:46

    My only problem with that version is I sort of wanted Brandon and Elinor to end up together b/c Rickman and Thompson had such lovely chemistry in their scenes together!

    That probably had something to do with Hugh Grant’s underwhelming portrayal of Edward. I guess it means he did a good job seeing as his character bored me stupid. He and Emma Thompson had no chemistry whatsoever.

    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (OMG excellent finished in a day).

    Agreed.

  43. Claudia
    Oct 24, 2009 @ 11:48:57

    I actually avoided reading S&S for ages because I thought it had Emma’s plot *blush* It took the S&S 07 miniseries to show me I was wrong. TV is also responsible for my picking up my first Austen. She wasn’t required reading during my K-12 years and I only sought her out after catching the 1940s P&P film.

    P&P just barely edges out Persuasion as my favorite Austen. The former has a sense of commedy and immediacy that mitigated the writing when I first read it and that continues to draw me in. However, I’ll soon find myself skipping to favorite parts or watching a certain film or series to fit a particular mood.

    Persusion often receives full rereads because so much nuance is forgotten and as much as I like the 95 film, the slower, introverted nature of this story is best depicted by the book.

  44. Pam Rosenthal
    Oct 25, 2009 @ 09:35:33

    it is basically Anne & Wentworth's story, with fewer tangents.

    I love Persuasion too, but think it goes beyond “basically Anne & Wentworth's story” — you might say it’s the story of a woman who slowly, purposefully, learns how to give up everything she was born with, to get the world, the man, and the British Empire on the high seas.

    Emma is a trial, a frustration, and ultimately worth it — but I’ve been learning to read it for 40 years. Hint: it’s a trick. It’s not about Emma herself, but about the community she has to learn to live in. The least romantic of Austen’s books, imo (except for the hidden romance, which is not the Emma/Knightley story). The most like a brilliant, problematical literary novel (and a little like a detective story). I’m posting about it today at History Hoydens.

  45. mq
    Oct 25, 2009 @ 23:46:33

    definitely pick Persuasian next! It’s my 2nd favorite Jane Austen novel now since half the time, it reigns as my favorite! It’s the closest to a romance novel out of the rest of Jane Austen’s books. And Captain Wentworth is so swoonworthy and romantic! Loved the movie too!

    I loved Mansfield Park when I first read it at age 14. I was really a sucker for victim heroines who are perfect but are hated by her extended family and have a secret, unrequited love for a guy who is being seduced by that worldly other woman. However, looking back at it, I don’t think I will like Fanny as much now as I did then. If you read it, don’t read it for the characters, but for the plot. I

  46. Jennie
    Oct 26, 2009 @ 01:37:45

    The BBC did an amazing mini-series of North and South, also by Elizabeth Gaskell.

    Yes, I saw and loved that. I saw the TV adaption of Cranford after I saw North and South; I like them both a lot, though they are very different – North and South is more gritty and romantic; Cranford is more humorous and slice-of-life. I happened to buy the book version of Cranford simply because that was what Borders had – if i like it I will definitely pick up Gaskell’s other novels, including North and South.

    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (OMG excellent finished in a day).

    I like Jane Eyre a lot – I’ve read it twice. It’s fun to see all the devices in this book and have somehow made it into the romance tropes hall of fame: hero has dark secret, heroine is poor and plain but plucky, heroine thinks hero prefers beauty who is only after his money, and more. But what I love about Jane Eyre is that it presents a heroine who feels unusually feminist for her time; not feminist in the modern sense of being concerned with Women’s Issues, but simply having a will and a conscience that supercede any notions of obedience. Jane rocks.

    My only problem with that version is I sort of wanted Brandon and Elinor to end up together b/c Rickman and Thompson had such lovely chemistry in their scenes together!

    I just remembered that I bought the DVD version a few weeks ago after seeing it on sale at Borders – I will have to watch it soon. There were times even in the book where I wondered if Elinor and Brandon would end up together because they did have a certain “fit” that Brandon lacked with Marianne, IMO.

    Which reminds me of the problem I alluded to in my review – I’m still not sure about Marianne and Brandon. For sure, I wanted her to grow up and stop being so silly and melodramatic. And Brandon was a great guy. But there was something about that resolution that I didn’t like, exactly. Maybe it was partly the age difference, but I also think it was simply that however much Brandon had a thing for Marianne (which I’m guessing was mostly based on her looks, since they really weren’t that suited tempermentally), it almost felt to me like pairing them in the end amounted to punishing Marianne for her silliness. She got slapped down in her infatuation with Willoughby, and in some ways she seemed to be settling for Brandon, as a safe choice. I’d liked to have seen more to convince me that they had really learned to appreciate those qualities in each other that would make them ideal life partners.

  47. Janine
    Oct 26, 2009 @ 02:18:45

    Lord help me, I know this is sacrilege, but I fell asleep halfway through Jane Eyre and decided that finishing it was beyond me. The best part of the book was her childhood; once Rochester showed up, it went downhill, IMO.

    What I want to know is, why is it mostly Austen and Charlotte Bronte who come up when discussing classic romantic novels. It’s like nobody reads E.M. Forster anymore. And he wrote some beautiful and romantic books. A Room with a View. Maurice. Where Angels Fear to Tread. Anyone?

    Anthony Trollope’s Ayala’s Angel is also worth reading, if a bit too long.

  48. Donna Alward
    Oct 26, 2009 @ 10:01:18

    April said

    I actually found the heroine in Persuasion to be a little too passive,

    Yes, that’s exactly what makes me want to shake her, but it’s kind of the point. And in the end it’s not just how her character changes but how Wentworth appreciates that change that makes it so worthwhile. Btw – with you on the running pell-mell through the streets at the end of the recent version, but Rupert Penry-Jones made it well worth the watch.

    I’m new to Gaskell and have seen both North and South (a favourite) and Cranford. I have read North and South and loved it, and have Wives and Daughters in my tbr.

    And Jane Eyre is a true favourite. Love the latest adaptation with Toby Stephens.

    Jennie look at what you’ve stirred up! LOL

  49. Sarah
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 08:16:17

    I’m late but I wanted to agree with others – Persuasion is my favorite JA. The edition I bought had a really interesting intro about what people specualte the plot would eventually grow into (some of the details seem a bit random, but since she died while writing it, she gets a free pass!) which helped me get into the story more (it was my first Austen).

    I find the adaptations of Austen generally help me with the books. Whenever I was frustrated with Anne, I mentally imagined her staring into the camera crying or soemthing like that, and for me, it worked as a reminder that I was supposed to be frustrated, and sad for her.

    And Rupert Penry Jones is so good! If anyone ever watched MI-5, it was like a revolving door of JA adaptation heroes!

  50. Lindy Williams
    Nov 19, 2009 @ 18:36:05

    Jane Austen herself wrote that she thought Fanny Price was a heroine no one would much like. It took me many readings to appreciate Mansfield Park. The most attractive people in the novel (the witty, cosmopolitan Crawfords) are evil. They tempt every other character to do things that are dangerous, wrong and harmful. By the end of the novel, the Crawfords have destroyed more than one person’s life. Then, they just pick up and leave town.

    The people Fanny should be able to rely on to show good sense and good morals (her aunts and cousins) fail her and themselves on every count. Fanny stands alone in the novel in recognizing the difference between right and wrong and acting ethically at every test. And for this she is ridiculed, scolded, taunted, insulted and bullied. Even her uncle, who should have recognized that she was his only ally during his absence, betrays her and tries to force her to marry Henry Crawford (who would have tired of her, discarded her, and destroyed her in no time flat).

    It’s a tough, complicated book, but I’ve come to love it. Mrs. Norris has been described as the most evil character in all of English fiction, by the way.

    But for straight-up romance , Persuasion and P&P are Austen’s best. I think Captain Wentworth’s and Mr. Darcy’s letters almost stopped my heart the first time I read them.

  51. Jennie
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 00:40:33

    I find the adaptations of Austen generally help me with the books.

    I did just manage to see the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility recently. I liked it, but it felt kind of slight in comparison to the book. I guess that’s inevitable – I pretty much have a rule that movie adaptions of beloved books are bound to disappoint if you see them after reading the book, because a book generally just has so much more depth and detail, and you usually lose that in a movie. Seeing the movie first doesn’t usually ruin the book, though.

    I’m kind of torn now between trying Mansfield Park next or Persuasion next. I should probably just pick both of them up soon and figure out which to read first once I have them.

  52. REVIEW: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Mar 25, 2010 @ 15:01:28

    […] English folk on the screen a lot better than I could on the page. It was only fairly recently that I got over the phobia and the attendant and rather silly prejudice I’d held. The recent Masterpiece production […]

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