Reading the first few chapters of Sense and Sensibility, I realize I may have internalized so much of the 1995 Ang Lee movie over the last 18 years, it may affect how I experience this book. Anyhoo …
What surprises me the most about finally reading Sense and Sensibility is (1) how the characters are incredibly well-written by Jane Austen; and (2) how I probably loved Edward because he was played by Hugh Grant.
Jane Austen does a beautiful job creating believable characters. I’m so impressed with how we get to know each character, whether major or minor, through not only her physical descriptions, but following their actions and conversations. It must have been a piece of cake for Mr. Lee and the movie cast to bring the characters to life on screen because they are so vivid on the page. I especially like the more animated characters: Marianne, Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Palmer.
Although I loved the happy ending in the movie, after reading the first half of the book I couldn’t help questioning the lack of anything that proved Edward was in love with Elinor. I know Edward is shy and stuck in a bad engagement, but Austen doesn’t give us anything romantic to hang onto. Not a chance meeting, nor private conversation, nor a secret shared look across a crowded room. Nothing. Elinor always “tells” us that Edward is in love with her, but Austen never “shows” us.
I also feel unsatisfied with Edward in the book because I don’t find his self-deprecation or awkwardness attractive. He doesn’t appeal to me as a hero or love interest. I miss Hugh Grant’s stuttering charm and gentle sarcasm. Hopefully, I feel differently about Edward by the end of the book.
I must be getting old because when I first saw the 1995 movie, I was completely on board with Marianne. Even though I identified with Elinor’s inner self-control and talent for tact, I agreed with Marianne that you married for love and nothing but a passion that completely consumed you would do. Now I can only imagine how much Elinor cringed when Marianne gallivanted all over town with Willoughby. I give her credit for not chastising Marianne for her behaviour in public after everything falls apart, but remaining a supportive and loving sister.
Reading the book now at this time of my life, I can relate to Elinor as the more mature, more responsible sister. She doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve and believes one must be realistic when it comes to love and marriage. She is almost the true mother-figure in the family. Of course, this causes a lot of tension between herself and both Marianne and her mother, as they find her humourless and controlling. It drives Elinor deeper inside of herself and we often find her suffering in silence, thinking and over-analyzing things. Is this why we love Elinor? Because she puts aside her own misery to focus on the happiness of her loved ones.
Overall, the first half of the book has been wonderful and I love it. What are you reading for Austen in August?