|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Pages: 336 (excluding appendices)
Started: Sept. 14, 2011
Finished: Sept. 27, 2011 (14 days)
Where Found: Book Depot (I have the edition pictured here, but I really love the Penguin Classic hardcover edition I've linked to at Amazon--they've been on sale at Chapters lately and it would match my edition of Emma and close enough to Pride & Prejudice. *Thus ends the rant*)
Why Read: I enjoyed P&P and was in the mood for a proper civilized romance novel.
Summary: In the English countryside, sisters Elinor and Marianne struggle to solidify their relationships with the men they love...but first they must understand who it is they actually do love.
This book surprised me in so many ways. For starters, it's the most suspenseful romance story of its time or even among contemporary books not of the thriller genre. Just when things are looking clear-cut, a new twist occurs, turning the whole story around several times before reaching a pleasant, though tidy conclusion.
Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are sweet, lovable characters that you want every happiness for, except neither truly knows what will make them happy, or rather who will make them happiest. Col. Brandon is by far the most likable character--loyal, sincere, and genteel, regardless of misguided rumours surrounding his personal life. Mr. and Mrs. Palmer are a hoot to read about, being such complete opposites you wonder what the mutual attraction is. Unfortunately the two main male love interests, Edward and Willoughby, are not so enjoyable--I found Edward to be just plain uninteresting, (though I thought his reaction to Elinor's question near the end was one of the best reactions and lines of dialogue in the novel) and Willoughby, you will learn soon enough, is far from sympathetic and comes across as an immature rat.
Austen's humour and criticism of social dynamics is much more explicit in Sense & Sensibility, whereas Pride & Prejudice makes us read between the lines to find subtle hints of the same nature. The styles are similar and even the storyline is familiar, if a bit more risque with a small but more complex set of characters. You may disagree, but I actually found myself more taken with Sense & Sensibility than Pride & Prejudice. Some day, I would love to re-read P&P, especially now that I'm more familiar with Austen's style.
What stops the novel shy of an A+ for me is the slim details of the ending. I'm not aware of the history behind the novel's publication, but it ended so abruptly it was as if Austen was under pressure to submit it or was under a page count restriction. I definitely could have done without Willoughby's exasperating speech near the end and seen more of the Dashwood sisters' romantic couplings which are held in suspense for a great majority of the novel, only to come together within the last ten or so pages!
Emma Thompson adapted the novel into an Oscar-winning screenplay for the 1995 film adaptation, also starring as Elinor with Kate Winslet as Marianne, Alan Rickman as Col. Brandon, Hugh Grant as Edward Ferrars, and Greg Wise as Willoughby. I haven't seen it yet but it looks fantastic :)
Update: I have seen the movie now and absolutely loved it. The script is loyal to the book but Emma Thompson's own touches and the purposeful, gentle direction of Ang Lee makes it a wonderful viewing experience.
Rank: (A)- Excellent, Highly Recommend