Tag Archives: Sense and Sensibility

Book review: Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope (Austen Project #1)

Sense & sensibility

Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope (Austen Project #1)

Source: Publisher

Publisher/ISBN: HarperCollins 2013, 9780062200464

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In this contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the Dashwood women are upgraded to the modern era, with Facebook, Twitter, cell phones and modern-day analogies of their 19th century dilemmas.

After the death of Henry Dashwood, his house at Norland Park is given to his son, the next male in line. This is because he and Belle Dashwood never actually got married. After John and Fanny move into Norland Park with their young tot Harry, Fanny promptly kicks out the Dashwood family, sending them to Devon to live at Barton College. What happens next is a series of romantic flings and romantic flops as the women try to sort out their lives now that everything they know is in disarray.

I’ve read so many review of this book, and so many of them are so negative. Although I agree with a considerable sum of the complaints, I still liked the book. I thought it was a very well retelling of a story. Much of Jane Austen’s work is social satire, highlighting the restraints in freedom of women in 19th Century England. Of course those restraints don’t translate into this century. Women are free to work, the passing of property doesn’t automatically go to the next male heir (unless its written in a will) and women aren’t forced to marry for money to maintain their living standards. They can, and most do, make do on their own two feet. The retelling definitely stunted the Dashwood women, but trying to maintain a semblance to those social standards of yore. Belle Dashwood was frustrating in her ignorance and lack of maturity. Elinor took over the reigns to get the family back on its feet. Marianne was flighty, devoutly falling in love with John Willoughby (Wills!), even though why and how they fell in love so quickly was never addressed. That made that entire storyline awkward and forced. The youngest sister was here and there, never really a presence. The way Belle and Marianne were so cavalier about money and not giving it a thought after they had been effectively made homeless by Fanny was ridiculous by today’s standards.

OK, so maybe it sounds like I didn’t like the book. I did like it. I swear. I was still very much interested in the lives of the Dashwood, particularly seeing how Trollope was able to come up with modernized elements of the novel. I think she did the best with what she was given. Although I wish she left the teen slang at bay. I cringed every time I came across the word “totes.” All in all, I thought it was wonderful. Trollope is a well-regarded novelist in the UK, although this is my first experience with her works. I am interested in reading her novels though. Her language and style is very fluid and illustrative, like Jane Austen. She has a way with descriptions that pull you right into the narrative.

This is book one of the Jane Austen Project. For those who don’t know, the Austen Project is a retelling of all of Jane Austen’s books by contemporary authors, pulling the stories and characters into the modern era. This is the first retelling. Northanger Abbey, Emma and Pride and Prejudice have also been published. Look at what beautiful covers the books have too!


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Sense and Sensibility – Review

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Age: Adult

I think this is one of the shortest of Austen’s novels. I made the mistake of reading this book right after Emma. So many of Jane Austen’s novels involve love triangles, confusion and mixed messages that I felt as if I was rereading Emma for the first 30 chapters of the book. The storyline did finally go on its own path, and became more interesting as the characters became more unique.

This is one book where female superiority reigned. It reigned over men, and over situations. All the women were powerful and in control at all times. Austen likes her heroines to be strong and unique and clever, with the exception of Fanny Price. I have developed an appreciation for Fanny as I read more of Austen’s works. As shy and timid as she is, she is a breath of fresh air, a change of pace from the usual characteristics Austen bestows on the female gender.

The thing that got to me, was how timid and hollow the men were in this novel. Usually there are one or two strong male characters that you use as a standard to judge all other men by. Not in this novel. The men were weak, easily manipulated and indecisive. The women made all the decisions through every step of the novel.

The Dashwoods are an interesting blend. Fanny Dashwood, sister in law to the Dashwood sisters Elinor and Marianne, is selfish, spoiled and manipulative. Every time her husband tries to do something nice for his sisters, she manages to talk him out of it. This dynamic is apparent with all the relationships in the novel, as the women control all the decisions of the men through some kind of flowery verbiage.

Elinor Dashwood is the most sensible of all the characters, leaving her sister to be the most emotional extrovert of all the characters. Other than Fanny Dashwood, there was no single villian in the form of an elder, rich and much doted upon respected woman. There is Mrs. Ferrars, Edward’s and Fanny’s mother, but she only appears once, and is only lighted talked about elsewhere in the novel.

Throughout the entire novel, Elinor and Marianne’s mother is nowhere to be found, as the daughters have left to go visit family friends for the duration of the novel. Its a testament to the girl’s intellect and emotional strength to be able to go through so many emotional rollar-coasters with only themselves for support. The bond between sisters is extremely potent in this novel, as they are in all of Austen’s works. Sisterhood is the high revered form of relationship, then followed with the bonds of family and lastly by the bonds of marriage.

I feel like my common complaint with Austen’s novels is that they are always about 10 chapters longer than necessary. The first half of the book lacks in dialog and is filled with very lengthy paragraphs of description interspersed with shorter paragraphs of description. This one, being only 50 chapters, is a quick read, and if you can get past the first half with mild interest in the characters, then your patience will be well rewarded.

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Sense and Sensibility
By Jane Austen
270 pages
ISBN: 0679601953