Archive for 'Classic Lit'

Sense and Sensibility – Book Review

senseandsensibility

by Jane Austen

Written in 1790′s and published 1811 Sense and Sensibility was the first of Jane’s novels to published.

This insightful study of human nature focusses on Elinor and Marianne Dashwood.  The Dashwood women, Mary (mother), Elinor, Marianne and Margaret are wrenched from their privilaged life after the death of their husband and father.  The estate is passed to his son by his first marriage and John Dashwood does nothing to aid his father’s 2nd family.  The Dashwood women are left with very little to live on.  Their sudden demotion in society complicates the sisters’ chances of marrying well.

Mrs Dashwood’s cousin, Sir John Middleton, comes to the rescue with the offer of a cottage on his estate Barton Park for a cheap rent.  Settling at Barton Cottage finds the family included in a good-hearted but eccentric social circle.  The sisters have to suffer match-making and teasing from Sir John and his mother-in-law,  Mrs Jennings.     The interferrence of the well-meaning Mrs Jenning is made more unbearable when both girls lose their hearts to men beyond their reach.  They learn painful lessons about love and the loss of it.

Sense and Sensibility highlights the precarious position of women of that era.  They weren’t able to earn their fortune and if they lost it, as the Dashwoods did, then their attractiveness is significantly reduced. Jane gives us a clear view of her opinion of the situation of women, being dependent on men, undervalued and censured for being independent.  She creates wonderful characters who masterfully make what they can of their oppressed  lives.

Reading Jane Austen is such a pleasure.  Her characters are rich and sure and I never feel happy to finish a book.  She has such an indepth understanding of human behaviour and the human heart.  Jane made a point of only writing what she had knowledge of, so let us hope that she did experience some of the love she so generously gifts to her heronines.

Essential reading for all young women.  It is humbling to know that even at that time someone was working to highlight the challenges of women.

Posted on 17 December '09 by , under Classic Lit, Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews, Romance. 8 Comments.

Pride and Prejudice – Book Review

austen

by Jane Austen

First Published: 1813

Pride and Prejudice is one of my more ‘well read’ books.  The dilapidated state of it is evidence of my love for it!  A book falling apart is sad for the reader but must be wonderful for the author, don’t you think?

Jane Austen creates such wonderful, believable characters, you never feel a moment of unease.  Without that distraction, you are free to immerse yourself in the storytelling.

Pride and Prejudice introduces us to the Bennett family of Longbourn, Hertfordshire and focuses mainly on Elizabeth Bennett, the 2nd eldest daughter.  As she and her family maneuver through the politics of an oppressive society, we are entertained by the absurdities of  ‘class’ and perception of respectability. The Bennett daughters are ‘out’ in society but none of them are married yet.  Their mother’s primary goal is to rectify this situation, and her efforts are a source of great embarrassment to the eldest two daughters Jane and Elizabeth.  Society changes dramatically for the girls when a single gentleman of great fortune moves into the shire manor, Netherfield.  After meeting at a public dance, Mr Bingley is enchanted by Jane and his attentions are welcomed by her and her family.  Mr Bingley brings with him into the country, his two sisters, brother in law and his closest friend Mr Darcy.  First Impressions of Mr Darcy leave the Hertfordshire residents very unimpressed and he insults Elizabeth, wounding her pride.  Mr Bingley’s arrival is also timed with the militia encamping in the shire, much to the ecstasy of the two youngest Bennett girls. Forming attachments with or correct opinions of  those gentlemen that now surround them, proves to be difficult when complicated by meddling family, devious intentions, misunderstanding and of course, pride and prejudice.

The adventures of the Bennett daughters explore the deficiency of first impressions and the art of getting to know someone in a society where manners and etiquette make intimacy a challenge. In fact, the book was originally named First Impressions but was rejected for publication in 1797.  Austen revised the text in 1812, renamed it Pride and Prejudice and had it accepted for publication in 1813.

In my opinion, Elizabeth is Austen’s best heroine and should be essential reading for any young woman.  Austen heroines have faults but don’t compromise themselves to achieve everything their heart’s desire.  Neither do they achieve their goals by thinking or acting like men. Despite the era , Elizabeth is a determined character.  She has a strong sense of social justice and believes women are capable and entitled to free thought, love, family and occupation.

I am an avid Austen fan but I feel confident in recommending Pride and Prejudice to anyone with an interest in historical societal structures and human behaviour.

Posted on 28 July '09 by , under Classic Lit, Historical Fiction, Jane Austen & Austen Inspired, Reviews. 1 Comment.