4 out of 5 Sensible Stars
I am re-reading all of Austen’s work because of the Austentatious Goodreads Group started by Read by Zoe on YouTube – or @zoeherdt on Twitter, that will be re-reading all the Austen books. Here is a video by Zoe about it. Again, I’m not seriously reviewing the books – I’m just sort of rambling about my feelings. I feel others have done better, more serious in-depth reviews on them. So prepare for knowing what goes on in the novel – I mean, even if you know what happens in a Jane Austen novel, they are still worth reading.
This begins at Norland, place of all things magical, at least for the Dashwood family: Elinor, Marianne, Margaret and their mother. It’s an enchanted existence… until their father dies. The estate is entailed to the eldest boy, their half-brother, who is already filthy rich from his mother’s estate, having married a rich woman, and now he has Norland. And he can’t be fussed to help out his now impoverished half-sister’s and his step-mother. Not to mention, his wife is a right bitch. Enter the bitch’s kind and elegant brother, add Elinor and he growing visibly closer, a cruel comment from the bitch about how Edward is meant to marry a rich woman, not a beggar, and the Dashwood family quickly removing themselves to Devonshire, where they can rent a cousin’s cottage on the cheap.
I think I say this every time in every Austen review. Every time I read her books, I find something new. This is the one I feel the most strongly about as far as that goes – every time I read it, I go back and forth between how I feel about the girls. First of all, Margaret may as well not be there. She adds nothing to the story, really. Marianne and Mrs. Dashwood are two sort of… dare I say it… basic bitches. They are both easily roused into drama llamas over just about anything. Mrs. Dashwood has no idea about renting a house, and has these wild ideas about renting estates in the country… when they don’t have the money to even pay for the lawncare on such a place. Marianne is 17 and thinks she knows everything about love because she’s read Shakespeare. She reads a lot but I don’t know what Austen was saying about readers, because frankly, she’s a bit of an idiot. She has this thing about how a person can only ever love once. The idea of a 2nd love is an anathema to her, and coming from the daughter of a man who was married twice, once to her own beloved mother, is confusing. Sometimes, I really hate her. She can’t appreciate other people’s feelings, and if they don’t equate with her own, they are wrong.
Then there is Elinor. Now I fall more into her vein… She is practical and pragmatic, and she suffers in silence. I don’t always do that, but she does. She knows full well that she and Edward would face difficulties, but she also believes that he has feelings for her, or the possibility is there. Then along comes Lucy Steele….crawling out of the woodwork like the louse she is. Elinor sees through this little hussy as soon as she opens her mouth. It appears our Edward got tangled up with her, and now can’t seem to extricate himself. She somehow got wind of Elinor and found a way to get close to her and see how the land was lying. She straight up tells Elinor how jealous she is and how sure she is of his love. All this is thrust on Elinor without her asking for it, and because she promised to be silent, before she knew what she was keeping secret, she can’t tell anyone. Talk about heartbreak.
Before this, we meet Willoughby. One of the worst snakes to slither out of the Austen garden. A true villain. I know. I hate Frank Churchill. Everyone hates Wickham. I wouldn’t piss on Henry Crawford if he were on fire, but Willoughby actually ruins lives, ok. But Marianne is literally swept off her feet. The two begin a joyous courtship, having eyes only for each other and ignoring social standards of decorum and etiquette. Marianne doesn’t believe in artifice of any type and doesn’t see why she should hold back, even when the local gossips start to have their fun at her expense. Even her sister’s warnings fall on deaf ears. In her fairytale land, everyone falls in love only once and everything is fate and romance. When he finally shows his true colors, she falls into a mope that a 14 year old emo would envy.
Besides the girl’s romantic entanglements, there are the family up at the big house. The cousins they are renting from, Sir John and Lady Middleton are as different as night and day. She is your basic stick in the mud, while he is lively and loves to entertain. His mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings might have made him a better wife! She is a total busy body, always trying to get everyone married and gossiping about their private lives. The girls give her all kinds of fodder, to Marianne’s dismay. It’s Mrs. Jennings who brings the Miss Steele’s, Lucy and her chatty sister, Nancy, to the Park.
There is also Colonel Brandon. He sees something magical about Marianne, she reminds him of his lost love – or that is what most people who read this seem to think. I think he likes her for herself. Even so… the actual love interests themselves, Edward and Colonel Brandon are nice men, but they aren’t as interesting as Darcy or as endearing as Mr. Knightley. And of course, Marianne doesn’t even like Brandon at first. I hate her interactions with Willoughby that are making fun of Brandon – especially with what Willoughby has done. What has he done? He’s only knocked up a 15 year old girl and abandoned her- a girl who happens to be Brandon’s ward. She was the daughter of the women Brandon loved but wasn’t allowed to marry. VILLAIN!
This is probably one of the best as far as plots go. Marianne’s character development is pretty amazing. She becomes all you want, and Elinor gets her redemption. And no doubt Willoughby’s wife makes his daily life a hellscape. So, good all around. As usual, with each book I read, I forget how much I like it. I always seem to read them all at once – usually starting with my two faves, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey – but as I go deeper in the pile, I find out how much I love ALL the books.
Now I’m done. And I’m sad. I want to read them all again. But I think I’ll wait till next year.