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18th November 2013

Classics digested: Sense and Sensibility

As Joanna Trollope releases her updated version of Jane Austen’s novel, Elizabeth Mitchell examines the original work

WHO is the author?

Jane Austen has become one of the most revered English authors, soon to make her debut appearance on the ten pound note. With followers so dedicated that they are known as ‘Janeites’, her six finished novels have been adapted into many films, and have served as inspiration for sequels and modern day retellings. Born in 1775, she grew up in her father’s parsonage and spent most of her life living with her family in the capacity of a sister and an aunt. Her work received the attention of her peers (the Prince Regent asked Austen to dedicate Emma to him), but financial issues shrouded her life. Austen died aged 41, and her last two novels were published posthumously.

WHAT is it about?

First published in 1811 under the pseudonym ‘A Lady’, Sense and Sensibility tells the story of the Dashwood sisters. Forced to move out of their home after their father’s death, reserved Elinor and headstrong Marianne make their new life in a Devonshire cottage. The novel focuses on the romantic entanglements both sisters find themselves in – cue the entry of Edward Ferrars (sensible and loyal), Colonel Brandon (strong and silent type) and John Wiloughby (mysterious rogue). Full of love, deceit, heartbreak, hope and near-death experiences, Sense and Sensibility examines the high society life of Georgian London, the banality of the chattering classes and the necessity of impressing your mother-in-law. The reader is left to ponder whether sense or sensibility will rule the day.

WHY should you read it?

Often overlooked for its famous sister novel, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility offers just as much wit and even more fools. By turns hysterically funny and painfully romantic, it is a perfectly crafted piece of fiction. You cannot help but fall in love with the good characters, hate the evil ones and snigger at the buffoons. Austen’s analysis of society is unparalleled and a source of inspiration to many contemporary authors. Although the most recent modernised version by Joanna Trollope is humorous and insightful, it is not a patch on the original.

Classic quote

“Know your own happiness. You want nothing but patience- or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope.”

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