Sense and Sensibility

I've enjoyed Jane Austen ever since being forced to read Pride and Prejudice for A-level. Having read through most of her canon (I think Northanger Abbey is the only Austen that I haven't read), it took me a long time to get round to reading Sense and Sensibility which is often considered to be one of the weakest of Austen's novels. I first read it after seeing Ang Lee's wonderful film of the novel, magnificently adapted by Emma Thompson, who won an Oscar for her adaptation in 1996, which has remained one of my favourite films ever since.

I do love the book too, it's generally very fluently written - odd really, as it's believed that Jane Austen wrote an earlier version of it under the title of Elinor and Marianne (the two central characters), and then substantially re-wrote it later on. It has a lot of charm to it - some great characters, most notably Elinor and Marianne themselves, and the wonderful over-the-top Mrs. Jennings, and Austen's usual charming backgrounds. The story is a simple tale - Mrs. Dashwood and her two daughters are in effect disinherited following the death of Mrs. Dashwood's husband, both daughters fall in love with what turn out to be ineligible suitors, the one suitor turns out to be a villain, the other a misguided good guy (who is nice, if rather boring). Eventually after a series of misadventures, the 2 girls are married off, one to the man of her dreams (the nice but boring guy), and the other not to the man of her dreams, but to someone with whom she will eventually be happy. The marriage of Marianne is odd, it does feel as though it's an alternate ending tacked on to the end of the book in some haste, and this is probably the weakest point of the book. At the same time the guy that she marries, although perhaps not the standard hero type is undoubtedly one of the most deserving characters in the novel.

It's certainly worth reading - it's one of my favourite Austens, perhaps partly because it is coloured by my love of the film - where I think Emma Thompson was very clever in her adaptation was that she tightened up the points where the book is slightly lacking, and this undoubtedly makes an impact when re-reading the novel. Best of all read the book and see the film, they're well worth comparing and contrasting, if nothing else it's a great lesson in how to do a perfect adaptation from book to movie.


Popular Posts