Sense & Sensibility, by Jane Austen
Love is not blind, contrary to the statement on the cover of this book. Anyone who knows Jane Austen’s novels knows that she did not believe love was blind either, as her novels are frequently concerned with the fates of beautiful women, aware of the more difficult fate suffered by plain women, and very open and honest about the regrets men faced when they married foolish but pretty girls who got less pretty but no less foolish with age. In this particular book we find an even less “blind” situation than normal because Jane Austen is particularly precise in this volume about not only the worth of the prospective brides themselves (the twice rejected Miss Morton of 30,000 pounds, for example) but also the men they can be expected to marry, a market that is not fixed but fluctuating, as Marianne’s health costs here in the eyes of materialistic women who keep a firm eye on the worth of potential husbands and wives for their children. So no, love is not blind to either physical beauty nor the value of one’s income, as it is today, even if some people buck the trend and marry for other reasons.
What does this book offer that other versions of Austen’s classic wouldn’t? Well, it offers the first chapter of Jane Eyre as a way of promoting crossover appeal between romantic novels, so there’s that. In addition, after the novel there is a short questionnaire that assumes the reader of this novel is a woman (bad from) who is having to deal with the question of whether to be romantic or to be sensible, in essence asking the reader to choose whether they are more like the sensible and practical Elinor or like the passionate Marianne. It would have been better had the editors of this particular volume assumed that men as well as women read Austen’s novels (even the Jane Austen book club roster had one male, it should be noted), and that would have allowed for this book’s supplementary material to end up being a bit easier to deal with and appreciate. As for the rest, what’s not to like about Austen’s book? It is witty, with interesting characters whose fate one cares about, and suitably complex male figures ranging from the dopey Edward Ferrars to his coxcomb of a brother to the handsome but dissolute Willoughby to the tortured Col. Brandon, all of which have their major strengths and weaknesses.