I've been addicted to reading since high school. I started with pulp novels, switched to great literature in college and now read everything
Until now I've preferred subtle readers (my favorite is George Guidell, who sounds like he's telling rather than reading the story, and the effect is very captivating - you forget he's there). Juliet Stevenson is not a subtle reader, but she is just as captivating in a different way. She performs the narration, often shrieking, crying, giggling, etc. (I wouldn't have known exactly what Jane Austin meant by "laughing affectedly" without Stevenson demonstrating it.) Stevenson is my new favorite reader, and I would listen to anything she narrates. Now for the book itself: it's one of the best I've ever read. Austin balances the frustrating behaviors of her characters and their consequences so perfectly with hugely gratifying events (the rotten, spiteful mother disowning her son only to have it come back to haunt her in such a perfect way). I think this is a way of saying Austin is a master storyteller.
Juliet Stevenson's narration of Jane Austen is pitch-perfect! She captures the spirit of prose and voices of the character's flawlessly. The only one of Austen's books not available with her narration is Pride and Prejudice. They need to fix that.
I love a romance and throw in a bit of mystery too. Must have repartee and ongoing (sometimes witty) interaction between the characters to be most enjoyable.
Juliet Stevenson portrays the different characters beautifully and and the 'book' flows with the funny and gripping story. This portrayal of Jane Austen's first book gives the listener a respect and appreciation of her writing skill!
If you haven't read this before, it's a story you will enjoy very much. It is a classic that is referenced often in modern culture and it will do you good to familiarize yourself with it, even if you read it a long time ago. Although the narrator has an English accent, it is still very easy to understand.
Avid listener on my daily commute!
This novel was originally written as a series of letters when the author was 19 years old. It must therefore be forgiven for seeming a somewhat patched-up business, with a story that will perhaps seem a little lackluster in comparison with Emma Thompson's brilliant 1995 screen adaptation. There are too many characters here (no one needs the elder Miss Steele or Lady Middleton, both of whom Thompson wisely cut from her screenplay), the climactic scenes are a bit anticlimactic (Marianne doesn't end up at death's door after a collapse in the rain due to a melodramatic fit; she merely catches cold weeks after she has calmed down and become more or less resigned to Willoughby's betrayal), and the characters we think we know from the Ang Lee film act in odd ways (e.g., What realistic villain worth his salt would make a drawn-out apology for his wickedness, as Willoughby does here? Why in the world would Edward visit Barton Cottage wearing a ring made of Lucy Steele's hair? And even if he did, what in heaven's name could cause both the Miss Dashwoods--including Elinor--to assume the hair to be Elinor's?). Nonetheless, this is Austen, so as with Shakespeare, there are lots of hidden riches and surprises here, as well as some wicked twists which, told with Austen's trademark wit, will have you laughing out loud in your car. Add to all this the performance by the incomparable Juliet Stevenson (who does not, at any point in the recording, sound stuffy or as if she has a cold, contrary to a previous reviewer's claim) and you have yourself an auditory feast. Grade: A.
Elinor Dashwood is "sense" — the sensible, even-tempered sister who is mindful of propriety and the necessities of life. Marianne Dashwood, the younger sister, is "sensibility," which in the Austenian sense means something more like "sensitivity" — Marianne is the passionate, feeling sister who wears her heart on her sleeve.
"Nay, Mama, if he is not to be animated by Cowper!—but we must allow for difference of taste. Elinor has not my feelings, and therefore she may overlook it, and be happy with him. But it would have broke MY heart, had I loved him, to hear him read with so little sensibility. Mama, the more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much! He must have all Edward's virtues, and his person and manners must ornament his goodness with every possible charm."
(There's a third Dashwood sister, Margaret, but she's thirteen and barely enters the plot.)
We can see here the "formula" Austen was working on. Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion... each book examines a particular set of character traits and their effects on the person marked by them. (Her other books did the same thing, if not in the titles.) Elinor is the protagonist of Sense and Sensibility; she initially falls for a man named Edward Ferrars, the eldest son of a rich family, whose problem is that he wants to become a humble clergyman while his mother, who controls the family fortune, has great ambitions for him and certainly doesn't want to see him marrying some poor girl from an impoverished no-account family of minor gentry. (Shades of Lady Catherine from Pride and Prejudice.)
Marianne, meanwhile, falls for the rake who always wreaks romantic havoc in Austen novels. In this one, his name is Mr. Willoughby. Initially set up as a true scoundrel who leads Marianne on, even forms an "attachment" to her (i.e., an engagement in all but name), only to later break it (which in Regency times was a very grave moral offense if not a legal one), and then turns out to have left one of his other conquests ruined and with child. Austen does a clever job of making Willoughby out to be a villain, only to somewhat redeem him later by revealing that, while he is no saint, his conduct wasn't quite as bad as it appeared to the uninformed Dashwood sisters.
Waiting in the wings is the other Austen prototype, Colonel Brandon, the very serious old bachelor who'd be a fine catch for the right girl who doesn't mind marrying someone twenty years her senior. (Colonel Brandon is unmarried and in his early thirties — for a woman that would be beyond hope, and even for a man, in Regency times, that was getting well past prime marrying years.)
Having read all of Austen's other novels, Sense and Sensibility did suffer a bit from being yet another story about two sisters with contrasting temperaments, living in reduced circumstances thanks to the ungenerosity of their more affluent relatives, facing spinsterhood due to their lack of prospects before happy engagements with men who fortuitously turn out to be well-heeled, not without first surmounting a number of misunderstandings and existing engagements as obstacles.
Did I enjoy this book? Yes, certainly. Every Austen is worth reading. But I finished it for completeness' sake. I would recommend that everyone read something by Austen, and if you like the first one, read some more. But I don't think anyone but the true Austen fan needs to read all of her works, and I'd really only recommend Sense and Sensibility as either your first Austen (in which case all the tropes and devices will be fresh, and you'll see them used more skillfully in later books) or if you are a true fan wanting to read her complete works.
Overall the book was average. The only reason I could tolerate it is I love Shakespeare. The old language of the time it was written differs greatly from current English. I chose this for my summer reading freshman year and I wouldn't recommend it. It was overall hard to follow and I found my mind drifting often. Although I will give Jane Austen the award for best plot twist in any Classic novel.