“The family of Dashwood had long been settled in Sussex.  Their estate was large, and their residence was at Norland Park, in the centre of their property, where, for many generations, they had lived in so respectable a manner as to engage the general good opinion of their surrounding acquaintance.  The late owner of this estate was a single man, who lived to a very advanced age, and who for many years of his life, had a constant companion and housekeeper in his sister.  But her death, which happened ten years before his own, produced a great alteration in his home; for to supply her loss, he invited and received into his house the family of his nephew Mr Henry Dashwood, the legal inheritor of the Norland estate, and the person to whom he intended to bequeath it.  In the society of his nephew and niece, and their children, the old gentleman’s days were comfortably spent.  His attachment to them all increased.  The constant attention of Mr and Mrs Henry Dashwood to his wishes, which proceeded not merely from interest, but from goodness of heart, gave him every degree of solid comfort which his age could receive; and the cheerfulness of the children added a relish to his experience.”

You would think that being a great lover of Jane Austen and the rip/spin-offs of her books that I would have read this in its entirety by now.  But it’s not true.  This is actually the first time I’ve read all the way through the book directly to the end without being distracted by something I thought better.  How wrong I was not to have read it through earlier!  Although often overshadowed by its sister book, Pride & Prejudice, this Austen book is just as wonderful and just as enjoyable to read.

Sisters Eleanor, Marianne, and Margaret Dashwood have just lost their father.  Their stepbrother has allowed his wife to cut them out of the girls’ lives completely, even managing to drive them away from their home at Norland Park with her bitterness and cruel tongue.  Before she does, however, the eldest daughter, Eleanor, has fallen for her sister-in-law’s eldest brother, Edward Ferrars.  When the Dashwood sisters move to Barton Cottage, which better fits their financial situation (or lack of it), Edward and Eleanor are separated.  Marianne, the middle daughter is as impetuous and free spirited as Eleanor is gentle and calm, she swears she will fall in love once and forever – and never love a second man.  While at Barton, a nosy relative is bound and determined to find husbands for the both of them, but who will eventually marry whom?  Will the thirty something Colonel Brandon vie for Eleanor or Marianne’s hand? Will the dashing and handsome Willoughby make Marianne a rich woman?  And what about Edward, will he be forgotten or is he hiding a secret that keeps him from pursuing Eleanor to Barton?

While it doesn’t contain the wit and humor of P&P, this Austen novel is just as good a read.  Eleanor is the calm to Marianne’s emotional whirlwind, which balances into a perfect portrayal of the different sorts of romances of the Regency period.  Even knowing the outcome (b/c of watching the different film versions) I was still enthralled by the way the sisters interacted with each other and with their different beaus.  When reading the book, you gain much more insight on the motives and emotions of the different characters, which can be highly beneficial – especially when it comes to Eleanor.  Also, many of the movie versions don’t cover many of the interactions with Willoughby and Lucy Steele, and after the weddings – all of which add to the flavour of the story and leave you thinking differently about who exactly the villains could be in this story.  If you’re at all an Austen fan and haven’t read this book, I highly recommend you do and take the time to savor it.

“Sense and Sensibility” was written by Jane Austen and published in 1811.

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