I first tried to read Austen in high school. I picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice from our local library and promptly returned it a few days later. It was a no go. I just couldn’t get into the story. Fast forward to college, I saw the BBC’s adaptation (Team Firth circa 1995!) and fell in love. I tried the book again, and this time I met success. I tried Persuasion and loved it as well. So, I thought I’d gotten over whatever barrier I had first met. Until I tried Sense and Sensibility for the second time.
It is Austen, after all. Someone will be very ill. There will be a womanizer. A misunderstanding will keep the couple apart. The girl will get her guy’s hand in holy matrimony. And sprinkled throughout the story you will find Austen’s trademark wit. (My experience so far.)
Sense and Sensibility was a long read. The majority of the story was just Elinor hoping things would work out in the end for herself and her love. She was a passive character, and the others praised her for it.*
I think I need to change my game plan. When I wanted to add Jane Eyre to my reading list, I watched Masterpiece Theatre’s adaptation first. I fell in love with the story and characters. Oh, and I cried a lot. Now I can read the book and understand the emotion and tensions of the plot that I may miss otherwise due to the unfamiliar writing style.
I’ll eventually try Emma, though please don’t recommend I see Hollywood’s Emma. The Goop destroys all.
*After thinking about it, I realized my criticism of Elinor isn’t entirely fair for it doesn’t take into consideration the social customs and expectations that she had to follow in order to remain respectable. She is smart, and she sees through the social niceties into people’s motives. She does say something about hoping that something happens to prevent his marriage to another, and she’s relieved in the end to have him. I just didn’t like that things simply happened to her. She didn’t really take much initiative, but much of that can be attributed to the period.