Friday, March 5, 2010

"The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex."

I have avoided reading Jane Austen's Emma because I find Emma's character in film versions to be quite repulsive through most of the story.  I saved that novel for last, assuming it would be the Austen that I would enjoy the least.  I never guessed that Sense and Sensibility would be so infuriating and would not have a single character that I did not find significantly deficient in some way.  In the next couple of weeks, I will be reading Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters for the Chance Challenge (Challenge 8: Real and Inspired) and I can honestly admit that I will be rooting for the sea monsters.

Elinor Dashwood and her younger sister Marianne experience a change in situation when their father dies and leaves his estate, Norwood, to their half-brother.  They, along with their mother and younger sister, find themselves in reduced circumstances and they end up moving to a cottage on the estate of a distant relative.  It appears to be sufficient for their needs and they settle in nicely.  Elinor pines for Edward Ferrars, her sister-in law's brother, and Marianne meets the handsome and sporty Willoughby and both sisters seem headed on their way to marriage.  It's quite a surprise then when Willoughby leaves town quickly and unexpectedly and Edward starts behaving with a strange reserve toward Elinor.  What could be the source of trouble for these two seemingly well-matched couples?

I really didn't have a problem with Austen's writing or storytelling in this book.  I understood many of the social complexities that she was attempting to highlight.  And yet I found every character to be flawed just past the point where it was tolerable.  I didn't want to stop reading the book before it was done but I felt that each character received more than they deserved by the end of the story.  At least in Emma I am assured of a few characters worthy of respect and the eventual improvement of Emma herself.  Now on to the sea monsters ...

Wishing I had re-read Persuasion instead,

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  1. I'm sorry you didn't like it. I haven't read this one yet, but I have read Emma. I really liked Emma because she was a character with so many flaws and I liked the fact that she undergoes a transformation in the end.

  2. I'm so sorry you didn't like this one. It's been years since I read it, but I did enjoy it--and I liked the characters. But I even like Mansfield Park, so I'm an easy sell with Austen.

  3. You know, I've never read Austen yet ... I'll be reading P&P instead of S&S and I'm very glad now. Go sea monsters!!

  4. Marianne Dashwood - the Austen character I love to hate. There is a great book trailer on you tube where M tangles with the sea monster. Like you I was rooting for the sea-monster. I like Elinor though - but I do wish she would do the sensible thing and hate Marianne too! All that self-effacing makes M so selfish. Grr. I love the book overall though, depsite the revolting Marianne.

  5. LOL S&S is by far my least favourite Austen, but I still enjoy rereading it on occasion (and I still love even my least fave Austen!). :) I'm rereading Persuasion right now; it's so marvelous.

    Emma has grown on me over the used to be one of my least favourite, but it's been moving up the ranks. I love the idea that even if we make silly mistakes, we can grow and change and everything can turn out alright in the end.

  6. Here are my Austen rankings:

    1-P&P, 2-Persuasion, 3-Emma, 4-Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, etc. Last - S&S.

    I still like it, but the least out of all Austen books. I have never really loved any film adaptation of Emma, so I wouldn't base whether you will like the novel on them. LOVE the book, though!!!

  7. Passionate - I'm definitely going to try Emma next and, even though I had problems with this one, I will probably try a re-read in the future.

    Teresa - I liked Mansfield Park too! That's why I'm a bit surprised that this one bothered me so much.

    Jenners - P&P is a great place to start!

    Jux - Oh, Marianne is so terrible! I need to find that trailer. :) Elinor was just too reserved for my tastes. The fact that she couldn't even talk to her own sister was annoying.

    Eva - I think this will be my least favorite too because I have hopes for Emma. Like you said, it focuses on her change and improvement. I feel like nobody in S&S really changes all that much and yet things turn out well for them anyway.

    J - I think I would put Persuasion first and then P&P, Northanger, Mansfield and S&S last. I will have to see where Emma fits in there! And I'm glad to know that the book is better than the adaptations. It gives me even more hope.