Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (audio)

I am ashamed to admit that although I have read certain Austen novels countless times (such as Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion); I have only read Sense and Sensibility once. I read it in preparation for the release of the movie back in 1995. The movie is one of my all-time favorite movies. Although I know it is bad, I think the movie had replaced the book in my regard. I watched the movie so many times; I figured I didn’t need to read the novel again.

Therefore, it was fantastic to reread (or listen!) to the novel again and see what I’ve been missing by only watching the movie. For those of you who have not seen the excellent movie, recent mini-series on PBS, or read the novel, Sense and Sensibility is the story of the two Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne (a third sister, Margaret is too young to be involved in the general action). Elinor is the elder sister and more reserved in her emotion, while Marianne is outgoing and definitely wears her emotions on her sleeves. The novel is the story of their romances and disappointments.

I felt old listening to this novel as Colonel Brandon is considered “old” by Marianne for being 35. But then again as a potential suitor to Marianne (who is not yet 17) that would be old. Mrs. Dashwood is talked of as being old by Mr. John Dashwood and Fanny although she is not yet 40. I am “not yet” 32 and this left me all feeling quite aged.

I thought it was very interesting that there was no detail on the start of Edward and Elinor’s romance. Like them, it must have been quiet. Like Mr. John Dashwood and Mrs. Jennings, I thought during the novel that Elinor and Colonel Brandon should be a match as they seemed so well suited to one another. I loved the detail on Colonel Brandon’s lost love and Eliza that is lost in the movie. I really want to read Colonel Brandon’s Diary. I hope there is more detail on his romantic past!

I must admit that the most riveting part of the book (and movie) for me is Willoughby. In a poll last month on this blog, I asked readers to identify their favorite Austen bad boy. Mr. John Willoughby won by a landslide with 70%, with Captain Tilney second with 20% and Mr. George Wickham third with 10%. Willoughby is loved even though I think he is the worst cad in Austen novels. What other bad boy fathered a child on another and then abandoned her?

As I listened to this novel, I wondered if he truly loved Marianne or if he only loved her because she was “the one that got away.” I’ve always believed in Willoughby’s passion, probably because of Greg Wise’s wonderful performance, but now I’m not sure. Sound off below in the comments – did Willoughby truly love Marianne, or just because she got away? Would he have seduced her if he could? Would he have become bored with her if he would have married her (as the novel suggests)? I noticed that Colonel Brandon’s key line (that is in the movie) that Willoughby did truly love Marianne is missing from the novel. Willoughby did visit during Marianne’s sickness and profess his true love for Marianne to Elinor. How much do we trust him?

I thought it was very interesting that both Willoughby and Edward disappoint the Dashwood sister by polar opposites. Edward is consistent in his 1st engagement, while Willoughby is inconsistent with his many ladies. Edward is never much of a fan favorite Austen hero. What are your thoughts? Please comment!

In Sense and Sensibility, money is once again a key theme as in all of Austen’s novels. The plight of the Dashwood sisters is mostly caused by the fact that their father’s estate was entailed to their half-brother and they do not have large portions to marry with. This brings about the timeless question of marrying for money versus love (as I discussed in my Mansfield Park review). It is interesting that how families treat one another over money matters is still prevalent in today’s society.

I listened to the audiobook as read by Wanda McCaddon. She did an excellent job. As part of the Everything Austen Challenge, I have listened to Austen novels on audiobook for the first time. I think these novels are excellent to be listened too. Austen has such witty dialogue that is begged to be read aloud as the Austen family must have done while Jane wrote the novels. I highly recommend the audiobook of this novel.

This audiobook version of Sense and Sensibility is the twelve item in my Everything Austen Challenge. I have now completed the Everything Austen X2 Challenge. I have more items on my list so I am going to continue on! I want to watch the Sense and Sensibility movie again after having listened to the novel and have several books on my nightstand. Sense and Sensibility is also the fifth item in my Classic Challenge List.

Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library


  1. The movie is wonderful. I watched it recently with my daughters and we all loved it.

    Call me a hopeless romantic, but I think Willoughby did love Marianne--though I'm also basing this on the movie. It may be time for a reread of Sense and Sensibility.

    Thanks for a great review!

  2. Wow that was a really good review of this book! It's one of my favorites too, and I especially love the movie versions, both different in their own way.

    Oh Willoughby, sigh...I believe he loved her as much as was possible for him, a cad, to really believe himself in love. It's like you say - because she's the one who got away. The ideal woman then. That's the feeling I got from this one anyway.

    And yes, sorry 35 is really super stinking old don't ya know! Brandon practically had one foot in the grave. Oh Alan Rickman how I love you!

  3. Fantastic review!

    Hmmmm...Willoughby. Yes, I think he loved her. I think they may have even made a go at marriage. Not the happiest of marriages, but I think he would have been faithful as long as the money held out. So, perhaps a different kind of love than one would hope for, but a version of "love" nonetheless.

    Listening to these books would be a fun way to revisit them! The movies are wonderful, but they are so much richer when you understand the thoughts and motivations behind the characters.

  4. I haven't read this one twice either, but am looking forward to finally reading it again after all these years! Great review!

  5. I haven't read S&S in a while. Now I'm hankering to pick it back up!

  6. Great review. I haven't read S&S in ages, but I did see the movie recently, and loved it.

    I'm about to start Willoughby's Return, a sequel to it, so that will be interesting

  7. Congratulations Laura on acheiving 12 in the Everything Austen Challenge X2! Your the first that I know of to attain that exalted status. Well done.

  8. I love this one - and I think you've put all of the thoughts I've ever had about S&S in your review! I'm looking forward to reading the Sea Monsters treatment next...maybe after that I'll see how the original stands up. Yay, Everything Austen challenge! :)