Back in the day, prior to starting this book blog in 2010, I used to read and genuinely enjoy more classics. Once I began blogging, I started discovering new interests, mainly YA, and so my tastes were all over the place and I was too busy discovering new stuff instead of the classics on my shelves. Suddenly my TBR was out of control and I was reading from all sorts of genres and discovering new stuff I never knew I liked. Plus enter review books pretty early on. And, if we are being honest, forgoing chunky books or more difficult reads in favor of things I could read more quickly because I “needed” to get blog posts up. I knew I was doing it and that was okay with me. I was prioritizing where my reading tastes where in that moment.
But recently I’ve been wanting to get back into the classics that I still haven’t read. So I decided to pick up a Jane Austen book I haven’t read — Sense & Sensibility.
I think a statement Will made sums up part of the experience pretty well.
“You are still reading that? I feel like you’ve been reading that for forever.”
Me too, bro, me too. It wasn’t that I was disliking it or that it was a painful read. It was just way slooooowwwer than what I’ve been used to reading over the years. I can fly through a fast paced YA read or a fluffy romance in no time. Sure, I still read books that are a bit slower to digest like a ~literary fiction~ book or a dense fantasy book but this just felt abnormally slow to me.
It took more time. It took more concentration. It took more effort. As a friend put it, “it takes a different reading muscle.” A DIFFERENT READING MUSCLE. Yes. That was exactly it.
After finishing, I came to the conclusion that I think I needed to work out some different reading muscles — for myself, not saying EVERYONE needs to work reading muscles they don’t want to. I needed to slow down my reading a bit. Needed to allow my brain to read something that I couldn’t process as fast as what I mostly read. It allowed for a different reading experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was engaged but it was in a different way not being able to fly through the pages as quickly. There were times I had that same “OMG MUST FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED” but I couldn’t speed read like I’m in the habit of doing with books with more modern and straightforward language for me.
It reminded me of why I like reading and interacting with a variety of things and also why I don’t want to shy away from things that may be more challenging in different ways. Even if sometimes I don’t feel like I’m not quite smart enough to glean all the things I’m supposed to.
So what did I think of Sense & Sensibility?
I really enjoyed it! I always enjoy Jane Austen’s commentary on social issues, gender and class and Sense & Sensibility was no exception.
Considering one of my most complicated and best relationships in my life has always been my sister, who is a couple years younger than me, I really appreciated these sisters. I definitely related to Elinor in trying to keep all the shit together knowing that my sister was always the one who took things harder and I felt I needed to take care of her. Watching Elinor push back her own feelings and hurt reminded me so much of the role I took when my mom was sick and then after she passed. I always tried to be strong for my sister and rarely showed my emotions around her, which totally led to misunderstandings and such like in these sisters’ case, but inside was turmoil city. I loved how, like my sister and I, when some of these inner feelings were shared with each other there was an even greater bond. I often wonder had I been more open with her about that I was doing badly too if things would have been easier for me — but alas, I chose to try and ~be strong~ hoping that if she didn’t see me panic that she wouldn’t. It’s no surprise how much I related to Elinor and how much I saw my sister in Marianne.
After reading a lot of classics I’m always thankful for, even while acknowledging how imperfect our society is, that I didn’t live back then. The way marriages were like this business transactions and so may more factors that weren’t LOVE factored into them. How you could lose your family if you wanted to marry down. How you could love someone but a better match could be made based on money. How you could lose your home when your husband dies because inheritance that benefited men more. OOF.
I also really enjoyed that exploration of what goes into happiness in life. Do you marry someone you don’t love because you think money will make you happy? Do you marry for love but risk being miserable and poor? I think my whole life I’ve always thought about this in terms of your career. Do I do what might make me happy but struggle because I won’t have money to do things I want to? Or do I take the job that makes the money but makes me miserable and end up working long hours and having so much money but no time to do what I want? I had this vivid example of this dilemma in my parents — my dad and stepmom who lived more simple lives without a lot of money and my mom and stepdad who made a ton more money but watching my mom seem so stressed out and bring her work home with her but we could do vacations and fun stuff. I always found my dad to be more happy despite money struggles though I can’t say that I think my mom was always UNHAPPY. Tradeoffs to your choices I suppose.
Anyways, to make a long story short. I enjoyed yet another Austen immensely and I’m glad I chose to pick it up despite it taking me so long to read. I loved the way I connected to the book in ways I didn’t expect and, like always, I loved the romance plots, the melodrama and that Jane Austen wit. But mostly I loved this story of sisters trying to find love and happiness even if their path to finding it isn’t the same.