Book Review: Elinor & Marianne by Emma Tennant

Elinor & Marianne is Emma Tennant’s sequel to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Charming and witty, yet also terribly sad. Emma Tennant’s voice is convincingly that of Jane Austen. A beautiful read. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

A sequel to Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”, this is the correspondence between the married Dashwood sisters – Mrs Brandon and Mrs Edward Ferrars. Passion, in the shape of the charming seducer Willoughby, makes an appearance, together with perennial themes of money and social embarrassment.

Favourite Quote

This work, which is so necessary, is combined with the erection of the Grecian Temple on the hill where the old walnut trees once stood. I do not ask you to consider the expense of such an enterprise, dear Sister – it would not be in your competence to do so.

(from Elinor & Marianne by Emma Tennant, page 36)

Review

I often steer clear of modern sequels to classics, especially classics which I love. Sense and Sensibility has always been a favourite of mine, and is probably my favourite Jane Austen novel. Yet this one had been languishing on my shelf for years and suddenly I felt compelled to read it. And I’m so glad I did!

Although the summary says this book is the correspondence between the Dashwood sisters, it is in fact, the correspondence between many of the characters introduced to us in Sense and Sensibility, not just Elinor and Marianne. In it, we get to read the thoughts of Colonel Brandon, Willoughby, Margaret Dashwood and her mother, Mrs Jennings and her daughter Charlotte, as well as John Dashwood, Edward Ferrers and the former Lucy Steele. This serves to give us a rounded, multi-dimensional view of the society the two young women move in and the events which befall them.

I liked the fact that the author chose to use the form of letters to write her sequel, especially after learning Jane Austen originally started writing Sense and Sensibility as a series of letters between Elinor and Marianne. This gave an added authenticity to the book.

I found the book charming, addictive reading, and had finished it easily within 24 hours as I couldn’t put it down. The author nailed the characters, managing to transfer their personalities as shown in Sense and Sensibility into letter form. Mrs Jennings I especially thought good as the great-hearted woman with a terrible need to gossip.

There is no getting away from the social hardships of the time, especially for women, and some of the themes encountered, like the loss of one’s home and fortune (in fact, the loss of any means to support yourself at all) make for sad and difficult reading. Yet there is levity enough to ensure the reader is not left miserable.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was a beautiful read, one which has inspired me to search out more of the author’s books.

Rating

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