Boozy Books: Sense and Sensibility

Hey, guys! Welcome to this week’s Boozy Books! Because I have no fewer than 5 projects I’m working on (continued development of my NaNo ’16 project, Lost City; drafting Liar (which those of you who follow us on Twitter will recognize is Lucky); early work on Talentless (Nerd Cactus’ new project, which A can talk about on Monday if she wants to!); Rebel Earth, a shared project with a friend of mine that will probably never be finished, but we will keep striving to get there; and worldbuilding on Esmeihiri, which is my from-scratch world that I will be working on forever and probably will need some help developing a plot for soon.

There is also Fall the God, which seems to have taken a backseat to all these other projects again. To be fair to FtG, Rebel will be done soon and I can get back to work figuring out what I want to do with the second half of the story. I have a lot of various storylines in my head right now, but they need to be put together into something resembling a cogent story. Which it does not right now.

So, needless to say, I have not been reading much lately. I’ve been working on one or another of these (and apologizing to Eamon, who is getting really impatient to be fleshed out into a full main character, which the expansion of FtG will now allow) until I crash into bed each night, leaving little time for reading. I think I’m going to crash soon, at which point I’ll get no writing done at all but read 9000 books in two weeks (only slight exaggeration there), so Boozy Books will get better then. But until that point happens (and look out for some epic fantasy, since I’ll be getting back into that as research for both Esmeihiri and FtG), I’m going to use up my last ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card and pair Sense and Sensibility, the final of Jane Austen’s completed novels I can actually pair.

I know! I was surprised I hadn’t done it already, too. I was sure I’d already done all of Austen. But I hadn’t! Though, I must say… I am not surprised it’s Sense and Sensibility that was the forgotten holdout. I neither love it the way I do Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice, nor do I have problems with it the way I do Emma and Mansfield Park (though a recent re-read of Mansfield with the view of updating it into the 1920s did sort of change my opinion of Fanny Price for the better). I love the role it plays in the Thursday Next books (the ballroom at Norland Park is the headquarters of Jurisfiction, the agency tasked with policing books from inside BookWorld), but I find myself not entirely satisfied with any particular character. Which, of course, might very well be the point.

Sense and Sensibility mostly follows two sisters, Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, who represent the two qualities in the title (in the same way Elizabeth and Darcy represent pride and prejudice in their own novel). Elinor, the eldest daughter, is all sense, sublimating her own wants and emotions to the point that some people find her cold (even, on occasion, her own family). She places the welfare of her friends and family way above her own so, rather than explain and share her heartbreak and travails throughout the novel, she keeps them inside. (I like her better than Marianne in many ways, especially when played by the divine Emma Thompson.) Marianne (the middle daughter), on the other hand, is all Romantic sensibility (and I capitalize R because I mean the Romantic movement rather than hearts and stars romance) and sees no reason to subdue her emotions or expressions whatsoever. She loves poetry and believes to die for love is the most wonderful thing a person could do. (Someone needed to lay off Romeo and Juliet, methinks.)

The novel begins with the Dashwood ladies (the two sisters, their third sister Margaret, and their mother) having to leave their home, Norland Park, because their father/husband has died and left, because of primogeniture, everything to his eldest son, John. Before they leave, though, Elinor Dashwood meets and falls in love with Edward Ferrars, her sister-in-law’s eldest brother. It is commonly believed that Edward returns the feeling, but he must leave abruptly before anything happens. Edward Ferrars is… nice. Like, he’s an actually nice guy. Not Nice Guy nice guy. Actual nice guy. This is a common thread with both him and Colonel Brandon, who is, in my opinion, Austen’s most underappreciated hero. They are both really good guys hidden behind an unexceptional exterior, i.e. you have to be discerning to be able to see and understand their worth. (Edward Ferrars was also played by Dan Stevens in 2008, so I guess that was just practice for him being the Beast?) He and Elinor are very well-suited, if not terribly exciting. You’ll not find witty banter or fancy houses to fall in love with here.

After Mr. Dashwood’s death, the Dashwood women are left with very little money, but are fortunately rescued by a cousin of Mrs. Dashwood (something Austen does very well is make you, as the reader, understand the plight of women in her world. Yes, women are always looking to make good marriages and need rescuing by men, but that is their lot in this world. They have very little other choice. Austen was an exception, but she was rather the exception that proved the rule, unfortunately. The injustice of male primogeniture is on full display here in this novel.) and invited to come live in Devonshire at a small cottage. Elinor, the sensible one remember, is totally fine with it because it is what it is, but the transition is difficult for the other members of the family. Once there, the family is introduced to Colonel Brandon, King of the Tragic Backstory™, who immediately forms an attachment to Marianne because she reminds him of a woman he loved and lost. Brandon is another trademarked Nice Guy™ (since I went and acquired the symbol, I figured I’d use it), though his backstory and being a Colonel do rather add a dash of the Romantic Hero to his character. In fact, this is one of my great disappointments with this book: Jane Austen, because the novel is about Marianne and Elinor, did not give us nearly enough Brandon. We are told rather than shown his tragic past. Now, maybe this is because Austen wanted to force the reader to discern the amazingness though the unexceptional, to learn his worth the way Marianne does (Elinor recognizes it immediately and their friendship is one of my favorite parts of this entire novel. They respect one another, confide in one another. It’s amazing. I love it so much.); I do not know. But I wish we’d gotten to see it on the page.

Marianne doesn’t see it, either. She falls for dashing Willoughby. And, in fact, Willoughby is a really interesting character. He ends up jilting Marianne and marrying a rich woman (proving men were just as guilty of marrying for fortune as the women), breaking her heart and nearly killing her (because death by broken heart is a real thing, people). But, in the end, it is acknowledged that he loved her and would have married her if not for the streak of cowardice in him that ran when faced with losing his inheritance. In fact, if he had married her, he would have had his inheritance restored and gotten both. But… nope. He ran and married the rich lady. Oh, and he also fathered a child with Colonel Brandon’s ward, who was herself the child of his Lady Love. (Guys. His backstory is some seriously tragic stuff. There’s a reason I used this: ™.)

Anyway, while all this is going down, the Misses Steele come to visit and the eldest Miss Steele, Lucy, confides in Elinor that she and Edward Ferrars (remember? Nice Guy™? Yeah. Him.) have been secretly engaged for many years. Actually, Edward had tried to tell Elinor, but had been called away before he could. So now Elinor is forced into a confidence with the women who basically broke her heart because Edward is too honorable to break his promise to Miss Steele even though he loves Elinor. When it’s revealed that Miss Steele and Edward are engaged, Edward is disinherited because he refuses to break his vow to her (it’s really quite nice). But then Lucy breaks it off with him to marry his younger, now much richer, brother (we are not meant to hate Lucy; she is just doing what a girl needs to do to get by in this world, remember?), and he is free to marry Elinor! YAY! They live a pretty good life, too, with Edward being a clergyman and Elinor his happy wife. They even get to live near Colonel Brandon and Marianne because Brandon, being the goddamn hero he is, offers Edward the living at Delaford (basically, he would be the clergyman there) when he hears that Edward stuck by Lucy Steele even though it would cost him his fortune.

These are some seriously good guys, guys. It’s just such a damn shame Austen couldn’t give them the nuance she gave so many of her other heroes.

Oh yeah. Marianne recovers from her broken heart over Willoughby, realizes she’s been selfish, decides to be more like Elinor, and eventually falls in love with and marries Brandon. There are some who are not satisfied with this ending. I am not one of them. Brandon is a goddamn hero, as I’ve stated, and Marianne is lucky to have him. And I’m glad she learned to realize how amazing he is.

So… what to drink? In honor of Devon, we’ll go with two options. If you just want to drink, go for a cider. But, if you want to eat something… why not go for a Devonshire tea? Nothing like comestibles for a good time, right?

Alright! This has been too long. I’m sorry. I get really excited when I talk about Jane Austen. We’ll be back tomorrow with some Shakespeare!


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