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on 12 November 2014
I loved the characters, from the manipulative Fanny Dashwood to the handsome stranger in Willoughby and the boring yet kind Colonel Brandon. Marianne had extreme emotions, from falling in love immediately to almost dying of a broken heart. Elinor was the more sensible of the sisters, I felt she depicted Jane Austen in this novel.

There were several aspects of this novel which really represented the time it was written in; marriage and life expectancy. Otherwise this is a timeless story, filled with witty observations and characters you may recognise from your own life.

Marriage was a huge pre-occupation for women in Austen times, it determined everything about their lives. It wasn't just about who they married, it affected what their lifestyle would be, who they would socialise with, who their children could marry. Marrying for money was preferred (mostly by the brides) but everyone else involved didn't think it mattered, much better to marry someone rich who you could grow to tolerate than marry for love and be poor.

Life expectancy also changes everything. At several points in the novel references were made to how long someone could expect to live. Mrs Dashwood (40) was only expected to live another 7 years or so, Colonel Brandon was thought extremely old at 35 to be looking for love, Marianne at 17 was already hoping she wouldn't end up as the maiden aunt. The average life expectancy in 1811 was 36, this includes the working class (80% of the population) so I would expect the middle and upper classes to last a little longer. So the pressure was on to marry and have children as early as possible with a hope of seeing your grandchildren before you're 40.

If you're new to Jane Austen or are intimidated by older novels, my advice is just to dive in. If you like romantic stories, you'll love this. Don't focus too much on the language, you will get used to it as you go through. Focus on the characters and the emotions, they are truly timeless.

I loved this book, it's a great introduction to the Austen world and I can't wait to read 'Pride and Prejudice' next month.
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on 15 May 2014
Sense and Sensibility is a novel full of the joys and woes of love, following the lives of the Dashwood family, and in particular the two sisters Elinor and Marianne who are the embodiments of the title. Elinor is the quietly reserved sister who overflows with good sense and practicality, while Marianne is of a wild romantic sensibility who is quick to love and feel, and does everything with a passion.
When Elinor falls in love with Edward Ferrars it seems she has found a kindred spirit, but when circumstances keep them apart and he finds himself faced with the prospect of having to marry another, Elinor suffers her heartbreak in silence so as not to trouble her family. However when Marianne falls for Mr Willoughby and gives her heart entirely to him, she also believes she has made a good match, but his true feelings are tested and found wanting when his family threaten to cut him off if he marries Marianne. Edward however faces disinheritance in order to do right by Lucy Steele.
Marianne feels her own heartbreak so keenly that she is completely insensible of her own sister's feelings, and while she plays the melodramatic role of one let down by love, Elinor continues to play the martyr to her own feelings. This novel depicts two sisters seemingly at opposites to each other, one ruled by her head and the other by her heart, however as the novel progresses Marianne appears to reign in her romantic sensibility as she gradually falls in love with the true hearted Colonel Brandon; and at the last Elinor shakes off some of her restraint to allow her to face Edward and tell him how she feels. This is a beautiful edition of a great book.
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on 7 September 2014
This was... fabulous. It twisted and turned and completely lived up to its reputation.

Emma, as is clear from Page 1, is spoilt and opinionated. She can be - without, the reader feels, meaning to be - a complete bitch. She meddles and interferes and doesn't learn from experience for a long time. Indeed, the reader can see things coming to which Emma is utterly blind. Even so, you can easily end up liking her, because she really does mean well, and she does care for her old father, and she does want to do the right thing.

This book is classic Austen: it's perceptive, funny and engaging. I was advised to read it thirty years ago and I wish I had.
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on 21 December 2015
Everything - and i mean everything - about this book is a majestic masterpiece. The writing is beautiful (it's Jane Austen; it's a given), the characters are amazing. If you've read Jane Austen books before then you HAVE to buy this book. If you buy now you might even get it before Christmas (it's better to order yourself than drop hints for family members because they just have no clue, just wrap it up and write a tag for yourself - no one will be any the wiser trust me.)

Don't get me started on the sheer BEAUTY of this novel. It's the Audrey Hepburn of book covers (one of the greatest actresses and people to ever exist by the way.) The design is amazing, the writing is amazing. There is absolutely NOTHING to stop you buying this book. NOTHING.

In other words, order it and order it now my friends.
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on 18 August 2013
As I pride myself on being an avid reader of English literature and am now close on 50, I felt it simply could not do anymore that I hadn't yet read a single novel by Jane Austen. So I recently resolved to read all of them, in the order that they were published 200 odd years ago (as I did last year with Dickens and the year before with Trollope, yes I like to think I am nothing if not methodical).

Is it any wonder I now blame myself heartily for having waited so long? 'Sense and Sensibility' is of course deservedly a classic, and, as millions before me I guess, I was captivated from page one by the story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Willoughby, Edward Ferrars and Colonel Brandon.

The action may be set 200 years ago, but the story is ultimately about that inexhaustible and timeless topic: love and love's tribulations, and as such it is most probably as captivating today as it was in 1811 when it was first published. I found this splendid story to be a real page-turner, very 'easy-to-read' with a limited cast of characters (but what characters!) and an incomparably fluent style and yet, at the same time, there's ever so much to reflect upon that I wonder not that many, of whom I will become one I hazard, keep on re-reading these novels. But first I am eager to discover what joys Pride and Prejudice (Oxford World's Classics) will bring!
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on 11 March 2016
I'd forgotten what it is like to read a classic.

A bit difficult, some things long winded some things just inferred. The beauty of them they draw you in requiring your attention. You could read it again and see whole new angles.

A good story Emma portrays events through the lead character. It shows how one side of a story is never enough for a realistic picture. How easily we can be deceived.

I liked it most as I believed it showed that though times have changed immensely since it was written. Love is a constant, we still make matches for ourselves and others, edge around the subject to avoid rejection, don't realise who we care about until something happens and feel incomplete without it.
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on 27 September 2015
Lots of fun here for anyone who's read Austen's Emma. McCall Smith gets the social mores right and translates the story into a contemporary setting with humour and ease. His picture of Emma as the interior designer who, back living at home with Daddy, isn't quite ready to give up her social life for her career. Far more interesting is a spot of matchmaking and playing Lady Bountiful to her governess and to her unfortunate friend who teaches at a kind of pop-up language school.

As usual, McCall Smith reveals his wry and humorous observation of class classics and behaviour, while bringing Jane's characters back to life in the twenty-first century. Great holiday or fireside reading.
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on 13 September 2016
Mma Ramotswe meets Jane Austen, I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if I had never read either. There is nothing wrong with his writing and a modern re-telling of "Emma" is fine but it is not really Alexander McCall Smith at his very best in my opinion. In future I will stick with his Precious stories! I love them, I have them all in Hard back where possible and on my Kindle, great to read a re-read. I will likely read this again at some point in the future though as his writing style is very readable.
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on 15 August 2015
I have read many Jane Austen novels and enjoyed them all. Very well written. Gives you some of the history of the way the comparatively well-off people lived in those times. Particularly the way women were treated as unequal to men. Their life consisted of marrying well for wealth, not always love. Their education was in some ways limited. They did not have the same career chances as women have today. Found it easy to read and quite light hearted. Would recommend her books, they are classics.
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on 27 March 2017
I began this book because I want to read as much of the "classics" as possible. I was ready to hate it and at times really struggled with the longwinded paragraphs. But I realised that whilst not my favourite. It is a very well written novel with alot of wit and heart. When you then realise how old it is and how fresh and exciting it would have been in its day (I believe it was farahead of its time in terms of its strong female characters and social commentary) I can't give it five stars because I personally did not enjoy it so much but I can appreciate its genius and am very glad I made the effort to read it.
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