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Sense and Sensibility
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Jane Austen's first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, is an enjoyable novel of manners, full of romance, humor, and beautifully realized characters. The old-fashioned language might be alienating to modern readers at first, but it's well worth the moderate patience it may take to become totally engrossed in the plot. Social attitudes of the characters are antiquated, particularly concerning gender roles, but this can make an excellent point of departure for discussion. Sense and Sensibility includes a sad story about two women who become pregnant out of wedlock. Also, characters drink wine and shoot game for sport. This novel has been made into several films, including the Academy Award-winning version starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet and the modern urban interpretation From Prada to Nada.
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What's the story?
Jane Austen's first published novel, SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, tells the story of the elder Dashwood sisters, reasonable Elinor and her impulsive sister Marianne. These two young women, with their mother and youngest sister, Margaret, must leave their family estate, Norwood, after their father's death; the property has been left to the girls' half-brother, John. Before the Dashwood women leave Norwood, John and his wife, Fanny, arrive, along with Fanny's brother, Edward Ferrars, who develops a close connection with Elinor. With a very small income left to them, Mother and daughters decamp to a Devonshire cottage owned by a distant cousin, where they become acquainted with the proper Colonel Brandon and charming John Willoughby, among others. The sisters' romantic prospects take numerous twists and turns as the girls navigate a social world where not every landed man they meet is truly a gentleman.
Is it any good?
Sense and Sensibility is a richly rewarding story of manners from one of the world's greatest novelists. Full of feeling, humor, and beautifully realized characters, this book is treasured by teens and adults who enjoy a complex romantic page-turner. For two centuries, readers' hearts have broken for naive Marianne and long-suffering Elinor, and the book will surely find devoted readers for centuries to come.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender roles in Jane Austen's world. How are the characters' lives limited by then-accepted notions about women's place in society?
Have you seen any of the film versions of this book? How do they differ from the novel?
What does the title Sense and Sensibility mean?
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