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Sense and Sensibility (A Penguin Classics Hardcover) Hardcover – October 27, 2009
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"As nearly flawless as any fiction could be."
About the Author
Jane Austen (1775-1817) was extremely modest about her own genius but has become one of English literature's most famous women writers. She is also the author of Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey. Ros Ballaster is a Fellow and Tutor in English at Mansfield College, Oxford. Tony Tanner was a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, and Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Cambridge.
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The problem is though that I have found people who read Jane Austen are also a very opinionated lot and quite often harsh words are spoken when discussing the strengths, merits, flaws, dislikes, etc. of Austen's various works. Alas, I have to report to you that this is the case in our household; a normally peaceful place filled with tranquility and marital bliss...about 49 years of it...thank you very much!
Yes, we are a family torn asunder. My wife (silly girl) feels that Emma is Austen's best work, while I, who am far more knowledgeable of such matters, prefer her novel, Pride and Prejudice...of which I am sure most of you will agree....me, not her, i.e. my mistaken wife. (Emma, bless her heart, is such an aggravating little twit).
Anyway, this is really not a review of Emma, the work (I will admit that it is a very fine read worthy of multiple readings ever few years), but rather that of the actual book edition on sale here. I felt sorry for my wife when I saw her ragged copy stuffed into one of her already overly stuffed bookshelves and felt a new edition was in order. I bought this one for her.
For the asking price of this book, including S&H, I cannot for the life of me figure out why people are disgruntled and unhappy with it. It is very well bound, the font is extremely readable, the quality of paper is quite good, the dust jacket is extremely attractive and all the pages were present. I check the binding very closely when the book arrived, and again, for what I paid for this thing, it was excellent! Trust me...I know about such things. Hey folks, this is not advertized nor is it a leather bound first edition! This is a workable, useful book for everyday use.
Now I have both this work and P&P down loaded to my Kindle. The chances of my wife ever using one of these reading machines are as about as likely as pigs flying next mayday. It ain't going to happen. Therefore, she now has a new hardback book; one that will quite likely outlast both of us; It did not cost me a fortune. She can read her copy; I can read mine and the war between us that has been going on since we were in our early teens can continue.
Bottom line...this is a good buy. And I must tell you, my wife was delighted with it.
The main theme of the story, the contrast between the two sisters representing sense and sensibility, which might have been called reason and emotion to be clearer, makes me suffer somewhat due to the impossibly complicated communications between the two girls. None of the two can figure out how to shed the stilts that they are constantly walking on. The dialogues are not easily bearable, and then, frankly speaking, both girls are silly chickens in their different ways. Their mother is a silly hen in her manic optimism. The fact that the main personnel of the story is not entirely admirable fades away in the course of the tale. We find ourselves exposed to the horrors of English gentry of the period, and one begins to realize that the silly girls are rather admirably nice people compared to most other people in this story. We meet more monsters than I would have thought possible in the setting.
The mother hen has to pick up her nubile 3 daughters and move with them to a cottage in Devon after her husband dies and the house in Sussex, which had been his father's, is going to the girls' older half brother. In reduced circumstances, they all make the best of it. Marriage prospects and related hopes and disappointments are the most prominent subject of thoughts and conversations.
Compared to her later colleagues like Dickens and Trollope, Austen, in this book, has the advantage of superior plot design. The later professionals, in the Victorian age, lived by their writing and their constant output for publication in periodicals. S&S, by comparison, is not driven by piecemeal design, not by the need to package publishable installments, not by ramblings from one subplot to another and back to the main story line. That is an advantage that one can appreciate, though it does normally not diminish my pleasure with the later writers.
Austen's station in society is clearly reflected in her novel's world: the lower gentry, people who don't work for a living, but who are not wealthy. Her access to other levels of society must have been restricted by circumstances, hence she was wise to stick to what she knew. Her stories are sometimes called 'romantic', but hers was not the romanticism of the romantic school, which was essentially irrational. She was very rational and had a sharp eye for all kinds of falsities and pretensions. The novel's main effect on me, in the end, was a sense of despair about the lack of sensible life choices for women (and probably men too) in the suffocating closedness of the 'society'.