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The Three Braenes

The Austen Conversations: Sense and Sensibility

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August 2005.
Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, was originally published in 1811.
Our favorite biography of Jane Austen is Jane Austen:  A Life, by Claire Tomalin.  And we do tend to refer to her as "Jane" as though she's an old friend -- because that's the way we feel about her.

The Conversation:
Beatrix:  I forgot how much I forgot about this book.  And how angry the legalities of this time make me.  That disgusting son of Dashwood should not have automatically inherited everything and had any say on how to dole out the money to his mother and sisters.
Bridget:  The descriptions of Devonshire countryside are lovely.  It makes me want to take a long walk.  We've been to Cornwall and Kent and Sussex and Norfolk and the Lake District and Northumbria -- we ought to go to Devon one day.
Beatrix:  Next time we go to Cornwall, we'll include Devon.  I want to go to Cornwall again to research my -- well, that's not part of this conversation, is it?
Brenda:  I don't like Marianne this time.  I don't remember ever disliking her before.  She's so mean about Colonel Brandon.
Bridget:  When Jane talks about Willoughby and Marianne liking the same books, I wish she detailed which books!  I think it would give us insight into their characters.
Brenda:  But would she have picked books they genuinely liked, or popular novels of the day?
Beatrix:  This is Jane.  She has integrity and writes social satire.  She would choose books to make a point.
Brenda:  Maybe that's why she didn't.  She didn't want to make that kind of point.
Bridget:  I wish she had.  I still want to know what books they read and liked.
Beatrix:  Elinor teases her about her discussions of Cowper, Scott and Pope with Willoughby.
Bridget:  But in general terms, not specific.
Beatrix:  Or maybe it means less because you've never read either Cowper or Pope.
Bridget:  Nor does this make me want to.  And I like it when books lead me to other books.
Brenda:  I remember now why this is one of my least favorite of Jane's books.  There are too many mean people in it -- John Dashwood; his wife; Lady Middleton; Willoughby; the Steeles; Marianne . . .
Beatrix:  There are many mean people in life.
Brenda: But I read fiction to get away from life!
Bridget:  It was only a matter of time before Willoughby showed himself to be an ass.  So much flattery so early on was bound to bring tears.
Beatrix:  The biggest ass was the Dashwood brother.  Every time I read the book, I hope he'll fall under a carriage or meet some other sort of unfortunate end.
Bridget:  (mocking):  And it never changes?  Imagine that!
Beatrix:  Unfortunately, we are not in a Jasper Fforde novel!
{Note from Bridget:  Jasper Fforde writes the deliciously delightful novels featuring Thursday Next, the first called The Eyre Affair.  For anyone who loves books and literature, his series can't be missed}.
Brenda:  Marianne annoyed me with her theatrics.  I wanted to slap her silly for having hysterics when the servant came in saying Mr. Ferrars married Lucy Steele.  It had nothing to do with her -- it's Elinor's feelings that are important.  It showed that all her "self-reflection" during her illness was hypocrisy.  She should have ended up with flaky Willoughby.  Those two narcissists deserved each other!
Beatrix:  I agree.  Colonel Brandon is far too good for her.
Bridget:  I don't understand why Elinor ended up with spineless Edward.  Elinor and Brandon are a much better match.
Brenda:  Perhaps love educates both Marianne and Edward?
Bridget:  Well, it is fiction . . .
Beatrix:  And Jane does paint a scathing portrait of social mores.  Elinor and Brandon are the only remotely likeable characters in the book.  How do they tolerate any of the others, is my question?  I'm awfully glad I didn't live then.
Brenda:  Of the three of us, you're the most likely to have set them all straight, have you lived then.
Bridget:  I'm glad to re-read this book.  I'd forgotten so much.  And I'll probably forget plentybetween now and the next time we re-read it.
Beatrix:  Next summer?  (grins)

We're reading Pride and Prejudice next.  Stay tuned!