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Sense and Sensibility: A Review

Having now read the book and watched the film from 1995 I am going to review both.

The Book

As always Jane Austen manages to make many witty insightful remarks about English society and it’s one of the romances I find most tense of hers. It really does seem about two thirds of the way in, that there is no way she could possibly pull a happy-ever-after out of the mess of the lives involved. She does, however, and reasonably satisfactorally. One of the sisters at least manages to get her first choice man and while the other sister’s happy-ever-after doesn’t go quite the way she wished I actually like this.

Jane Austen shows that sometimes what we think we want isn’t actually what we need. Sometimes the man that panders to our every indulgent whim isn’t as good as the man who presents us with steady feelings both of love and wisdom, self restraint and devotion. She presents the idea that feelings of love can fade when only flattery and merrymaking are involved but can be strengthened by a consistent companion who provides for and works with their partner in making a future. Essentially she makes a point that the feeling of love isn’t as good as the actions of love.

While this is a point I highly approve of I have to admit it’s not my favourite book. I actually think Miss Austen could have done with an editor who removed a little of the padding from the book to make it shorter but more to the point. That someone would have to understand the whole point of the book, however, to ensure they didn’t remove anything important.

The Film

This is where my love of the film comes in. The film has, for the most part, managed just that. It’s removed some of the slightly uneccessary complications and just included the major plot points. It’s also removed quite a few of the extra characters that didn’t really add anything.

I can also say the acting was completely amazing. Every actor did their part so well. Hugh Grant even managed to pull off Edward Ferrars. My favourite was by far Emma Thompson though who played the eldest Miss Dashwood. Coincidentally she was also the writer and that’s something I loved finding out. When an artist is allowed to do more than one art well I always admire them. So many people seem to think artists have to stay within one realm when often the experience in one type of art can lend understanding to another type. Before I rant about this I’ll go back to the acting part, however.

I also really liked Alan Rickman’s part as Colonel Brandon and Hugh Laurie’s part as Mr Palmer. While neither of them played huge roles they did their’s perfectly. It’s like there was some huge understanding among the entire cast that although the budget wasn’t that large and there were too many of them to have huge parts they all acted their socks off. They truly turned something less likely to do well into a delightful film full of gorgeous historic grace and charm.

This is confession time, however, as the first two times I watched this film I don’t think I really appreciated the acting talent and issues within the story. It was enjoyable enough but it wasn’t until my third watch that this film actually made me take notice of the acting, story and feeling in every scene. I highly recommend people watch it as long as they promise to do so with the seriousness of the film and an open heart to the feelings the actors so lovingly portay.

Northanger Abbey: A Review

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen is the first book she wrote but the last published.

It’s about the very young and naive Catherine Morland who has never ventured from her little home town of Fullerton her whole life until a very lovely older couple with no children offer to take her to Bath.

I have to admit I think I actually like this Austen book more than Pride and Prejudice, infact I think it’s perhaps my favourite of her books. I’ve always loved Austen’s books, mostly because of the author’s wit and delight in mocking the oddities in the people around her through characters with absurd personality traits, but also becuse of her very clever way of telling a story from only one perspective.

A lot of novels written recently feel the need to explain to the reader all the motives and reasons for each and every character by alternating between the viewpoints of the important people. I think this is too much information. I infinitely prefer to work out the motives of the other characters myself rather than have it told to me. In my opinion a good writer allows the reader to figure it out but doesn’t tell the reader what the other people are thinking at all. It shouldn’t be necessary.

Half the delight in reading a book is discovering all the delicious intricacies of each personality represented. Where is the fun if the writer tells the thoughts of each character? Is it not much more engaging to be left pondering as to the meaning of an action along with the character being affected?

Another reason I loved this book was because of Austen’s way she, on a few occasions, talked to the reader directly. She interrupted the description of Catherine reading a novel to explain her viewpoint on novels of that type.

I always try to work out some of the character of an author when reading their books as it can often come out in the subtelties of the way they describe things, so having the author interact directly was something I enjoyed. It was yet another insight into Austen and her world through that of her writing.

So in short I love Austen for not assuming I’m not bright enough to work out her characters and their potential motives. For expecting her readers to actually have a think about what she might have meant and what she might be trying to say. But mostly for having much more amazing characters and interesting moments in her books because of it all.