Elinor is as prudent as her sister Marianne is impetuous. Each must learn from the other after they are they are forced by their father’s death to leave their home and enter into the contests of polite society. The charms of unsuitable men and the schemes of rival ladies mean that their paths to success are thwart with disappointment but together they attempt to find a way to happiness.
I have been wary of tackling this book for years, because I love the Emma Thompson movie version (Alan Rickman will forever be Snape and Colonel Brandon to me! Bless his soul.) I really didn’t want to be disappointed in the book, and had kind of tiptoed around beginning it at all. At Christmas time, however, I had a craving for Austen and thought that it was the perfect time to take on this book, leaving only Emma and Mansfield Park on my unread Austen pile. I’m frankly not looking forward to those two, because Emma seems like a character who will be really annoying and everyone seems to think Mansfield Park is the worst of the bunch.
This was reaaaaaaally slow for the first third, and I was having major trouble staying focussed on the book, which is so unlike me with an Austen! I was feeling pretty negative about it all, and disappointed in the flow of the book, so I limped along for a few days.
Slowly, I was totally immersed and couldn’t put it down! I was giggling at bits, reading out sections to my poor fiancee, who had no prior knowledge of the plot and the social etiquette being broken by the passage. It was absolutely hilarious at points!
Marianne was a difficult character for me to like, because she could be so rude and cruel to those who were kind to her, simply because she disliked some aspect of their character; mainly, that they offended her romantic view of the world. However, as the novel progressed, she became far more measured in attitude, especially after her climactic illness.
“And Marianne, who had the knack of finding her way in every house to the library, however it might be avoided by the family in general, soon procured herself a book.”
I don’t generally frequent homes with libraries, but I feel I would be the same!
Elinor was a far more relatable character for me, though I really wished in the beginning that she’d grow more of a backbone. She puts up with so much from her mother, sister and other relations, it’s no wonder she really wanted to get married and away from it all!
Austen has left the prolonged felicity of the couples in doubt, ending the book at a point that implies that the future is not necessarily stable. I like this about Austen, as she manages to combine the fairytale endings with stark reality, leaving there enough mystery for the future to get the reader thinking. I’d love to know how Marianne and Brandon got on, and whether Willoughby’s wife’s behaviour improved.
Overall, because of the slow start, i’d rate this book at the 3.5 star point. It’s far better than Northanger Abbey, but not as good as Pride and Prejudice. I felt like it was about on par with Persuasion, which I also very much enjoyed. Now I’ll have to go on to read the last two relatively soon, as I’m reading my way through the important classics from the 18th Century onwards!