Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: Sense and Sensibility (Insight Edition)

I love Jane Austen. A couple summers ago, I set out to read all of her books in one summer – even those I had read before (Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility). Even after realizing that many of her characters and stories are similar, I still loved her. I love the way she writes with wit and intelligence. And I really enjoy how everyone who deserves to be happy in the end does indeed end up happy.

Sense and Sensibility, for those of you who haven’t ever read it or seen one of the many film versions, is the story of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne who are both alike in passion, except that Marianne is all passion and impulsivity on the outside (sensibility) and Elinor is all composure and caution on the outside (sense). The story tells of secret love, not so secret love, lost fortunes and selfishness, and deep sisterly love. This story, even more than Pride and Prejudice, makes me wish I had a sister or two.

This insight edition is different from other more “academic” versions of classic works, because rather than pages and pages of footnotes instructing the reader as to the socio-historical background of the book…. Well, it’s like the editors are reading the book with you. Occasionally there are informative footnotes which tell you what a “Barouche” is (a four-wheeled carriage pulled by 2 horses that seated four people), or tells you about “Harley Street” (a street in London populated chiefly by medical professionals). But there are also 6 other types of footnotes that occur throughout the book – usually as an “aside” on the edge of the page – including notes about Jane Austen’s life and how a part of the story relates to it, references to S&S in film and television, themes related to faith, and notes on characters that the editors dislike throughout the story.

While at first, I thought that this tongue-in-cheek note system was a little distracting, as I went onward, I began to enjoy the voices of these women. It was kind of like I was reading the book with a friend or with a book club. So that as I read about something really horrible that Fanny said to John or Lucy said to Elinor and thought, “UGH! I think Fanny is such a jerk!” there was the comment by my “friends” in the margin saying the same thing.

This version of Sense and Sensibility does not add anything new to the text that Jane Austen wrote, and thus the story of course is great. The Insight Edition does add some contemporary fun to the novel however, and it is likely you would also enjoy taking these friends with you on the journey through 19th century England.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen? 4.5 out of 5
The Insight Edition? 3.5 out of 5

** As a reminder, I receive free copies of books from Bethany House Publishers in order to review them. While I appreciate the free books, I am free to like or dislike the books as I see fit. **