book review: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

originally published in 1811

Sense and Sensibility was only my second Jane Austen after Northanger Abbey–I’m working to read them all in order from her earliest works to latest, which I should complete within six months now that I have the structure of a monthly Jane Austen book club guiding me. I’m honestly not sure that I’ll become an Austen-ite by the end of this–so far my experience with her first two books has been very tepid, though I’m certainly excited to see things take a turn for the more interesting as her writing matures.

I actually don’t have a lot to say about Sense and Sensibility, in spite of attending a very interesting near-two hour long book club discussion the other day. I thought this book was fine but also frustrating to spend 400 pages with; characters are largely flat and undergo very little development and the resolution was almost comically unsatisfying. That this was Austen’s first published novel shows; it feels rough around the edges, though regrettably not even in an interesting way. I didn’t hate reading it, and the fact that I’m an Elinor to a fault certainly helped earn my investment, but I’m looking forward to seeing how her style develops and hoping that her later books work more to my taste and expectations. 

25 thoughts on “book review: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

  1. Everyone assumes that since I’m a big reader and studied English literature and now live in England, etc., etc., I must be a massive Jane Austen fan. But I’ve only ever read two of her books myself (P&P, which I did love, and Mansfield Park, which I didn’t), though I know all the stories from film and TV adaptations. I failed to get ANYwhere with Persuasion, our October book club read, so I gave that Zoom meeting a miss. (But can I ask what book club you’re part of? — because the one woman from my book club who IS a huge Austen fan has just been rereading all of Austen for a monthly book club, including S&S recently. I wondered if you might be doing the same online readalong.)

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    • I’m glad to finally have an excuse to read all her books but I honestly think I’ll land somewhere similar to you, like… she’s fine. Like, when I started getting into Shakespeare last year I had this very vivid “oh, this is going to awaken something in me” feeling and I don’t have an even slightly comparable feeling here.

      Oh I think it must just be a coincidence! Mine is a group of mostly Project Shakespeare people (some of us had a convo about Austen that led us to wanting to do this spinoff book club so we called ourselves the Austen Splinter Spinsters–ASS for short, naturally) and then we roped in a couple of other friends but it’s mostly an insular group! That’s cool though someone else is doing it too!


  2. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book when I read it for the second time, after not having liked it much the first time! Interestingly it was her most popular during her lifetime as it was more the style that people were used to.

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  3. I had a very tepid reaction to Austen the first time I read her novels, and I find them becoming more interesting to me as I get older, which is weird, because I’m the age of the doddering mothers and aunts now, not the heroines 🙂 But yeah, they might grow on you… or not! Honestly these two are probably my least favourite.

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    • GOOD, I hope they’re my least favorite too. That’s so funny but I also get it, I tried to read Pride & Prejudice when I was a teenager and gave up a few chapters in, I found it incredibly dull and pointless. Whatever I think of it now I know it’ll be a slightly more nuanced reaction at least!!


  4. I wonder if I would have reacted differently to Austen’s books if I hadn’t read them all for the first time in my late teens. I like her a lot, but I certainly feel less in love with e.g. Pride and Prejudice than I used to (Emma is my favourite).

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  5. Jane Austen is so beloved to me that I often can’t be objective about her books. However, S&S is probably one that I don’t love so much. I can even say I prefer the 1995 film with Emma Thompson which I’m sure some people would find blasphemous!!
    I hope you find some Austen books that you do enjoy more along the way, because I hope that for everyone. But even if you don’t, I commend your honesty. No point in pretending to like something just because it’s a “classic”.


  6. Ooh, I hope you’ll enjoy the rest of your Austen book club! I’ve only got one of her novels left to read and have enjoyed most of them quite a lot, though I’d say S&S and Northanger Abbey are on the lowest end of the spectrum for me so far. (I had fun discussing Northanger Abbey in a college class but that experience has stuck with me far moreso than the book itself.) Looking forward to more of your Austen thoughts over the upcoming months, and wishing you better luck ahead with her work! 🙂


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