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Fun Friday–Sense & Sensibility

Friday, March 28, 2008


Simple words cannot express how excited I am about seeing the new version of Sense & Sensibility, which begins this Sunday on PBS.

    Sisters Elinor (Hattie Morahan, The Golden Compass) and Marianne Dashwood (Charity Wakefield, Jane Eyre) have opposite approaches when it comes to the pursuit of love. One is tempered and rational, the other impulsive and full of youthful passion. The sisters attract a trio of suitors — handsome Edward Ferrars (Dan Stevens, The Line of Beauty), heroic Colonel Brandon (David Morrissey, State of Play), and effusive John Willoughby (Dominic Cooper, The History Boys). But are the men as genuine as they seem? A romantic odyssey full of seduction and abandonment unfolds in Andrew Davies’s bold adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel. (Courtesy PBS)

Sense & Sensibility is not my favorite, nor my least favorite of Jane Austen’s novels. I love it for the nuance of character and the complexity of the story that she told. Because it was one of the first she wrote (and the very first one published), her style wasn’t yet as crisp as in later novels, and it does tend to ramble a bit. My mom told me at Christmas that she tried listening to the audiobook, but gave it up because the narrative just went on and on and on, and since she didn’t know the story, because she was just listening to it driving in and around town—fifteen minutes here, twenty minutes there—she couldn’t keep track of who was who and what was going on. So she asked me to give her the five-minute version of the story.

It took almost twenty.

 I’m sure you’re all here looking for my comparison of the actors in the new version to the actors in the 1995 Emma Thompson version. However, I’ll be doing that for next week and it’ll be over on the Jane Austen Today blog!

So what am I looking forward to in this new adaptation?

First and foremost, I’m looking forward to seeing the roles filled by actors who were cast because they actually fit the descriptions of the characters, not because of their star-power. Yes, I love the Emma Thompson version. But Eleanor is supposed to be nineteen years old when the story opens. Emma Thompson was thirty-six when she made this film. I’ve never been a fan of Hugh Grant (one of these days, I’ll explain why—it’s because of the first movie I ever saw him in: The Lady and the Highwayman). Kate Winslet was around nineteen or twenty, so she was as close to the right age for Marianne (seventeen) as one could hope. She was wonderful in the role (as were all of the actors in this version . . . with the exception of Hugh Grant).

I know there are some people out there who feel as adamantly about Alan Rickman in the role of Colonel Brandon as they do about Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. So, since I’m 100 percent in favor of equal opportunity, I’ll go ahead and offend the Alan Rickman lovers to say I feel he was completely miscast as Colonel Brandon. (Side note trivia: the first name Christopher was made up for that version of the movie.) Yes, he’s a wonderful actor, and did a good job in the role. But he wasn’t the Colonel Brandon who appears in the book. The biggest problem is that Colonel Brandon is meant to be thirty-five years old. Alan Rickman was forty-nine. So I’m really interested to see not only Andrew Davies’s interpretation of the characters, but how actors who are closer to the characters’ ages interpret (and look in) them.

(Yes, there really is a duel that takes place in the story—only there, it’s offstage.)

So, anyway, back to the new version and what I’m looking forward to.

Andrew Davies has apparently beefed-up the men’s roles—and I’m not talking just physically. One of Davies’s gripes about Jane Austen’s stories (and he’s studied them quite a bit) is that she didn’t really understand her male characters—didn’t give them enough of a presence. Which is why in Davies’s adaptations, there is usually at least one scene that doesn’t appear in the novel, because it involves only the male characters interacting with each other.

Another aspect I’m highly anticipating are the costumes and sets. From what I’ve seen in the still images online, they look spectacular!

I don’t know about you, but just pulling these images and writing about the new adaptation has whetted my appetite, and I can’t wait to watch it. I hope you will too!

Links of Interest
Interview with screenwriter Andrew Davies (see #11)
Listing on
Main page at PBS’s Masterpiece Classics site
Wikipedia Article on Sense & Sensibility
Full Text of Sense & Sensibility on the Republic of Pemberley

For more information on Jane Austen and all of her works:
The Jane Austen Society of North America
The Republic of Pemberley

  1. Friday, March 28, 2008 8:50 am

    I am SO excited to see this! I had no idea it was so miscast in the Emma Thompson version. I had an idea she was too old for the part, but I didn’t know that about Alan Rickman. I thought he pulled it off really well because I started out not liking him, then by the end he seemed to fit. MAN, I really need to read these books.


  2. Friday, March 28, 2008 9:17 am

    I can’t wait!

    Question: is S&S set before or after 1800? I ought to know this…. 🙂


  3. Friday, March 28, 2008 9:48 am


    “According to Cassandra, it was probably the first of the novels to be started (sometime before 1797, under the early name Elinor and Marianne); it was worked on in 1797, and probably again heavily revised before publication in 1811.”

    Jane Austen was never specific with the year of her settings, except for in Persuasion which is most definitely set during the year following Bonaparte’s abdication in April 1814 and before the war resumed in 1815. So her books are typically thought of as being “set” in the year in which they were published, which in the case of S&S is 1811.


  4. Friday, March 28, 2008 12:16 pm

    I am so excited about this! I read the book again sometime last year…but I haven’t seen the Emma Thompson film in quite a while…I think I’ll try to rewatch that maybe tomorrow afternoon.


  5. Friday, March 28, 2008 1:55 pm

    It helps me to know this was her first published book. I, too, tried to listen to listen to the unabridged version (the way I’ve gone through the limited “classics” I’ve read) after I’d listened to the abridged version my library had.

    I *loved* the abridged (I get a little thrill of superiority to know how the movie differs from the original, and I got that from the abridged), but the un- was too much of a slog.

    But then, I felt that too about the version of P&P my library has. So maybe it doesn’t make any difference…

    Definitely asking DH (dear husband) to set up the computer to record these.

    I, too, knew Eleanor’s age was off, but didn’t know so much about the Colonel.

    This is going to be cool.


  6. Leslie S. permalink
    Wednesday, April 2, 2008 5:53 am

    Whohoo! I am so glad I wandered over here. I love Jane Austen movies. I hope PBS will be rerunning S&S! Got to check my local listings 🙂


  7. dee permalink
    Monday, November 7, 2011 8:18 am

    In 2008, Hattie Morahan (Elinor) was 30, Charity Wakefield (Marianne) was 27 and David Morrissey (Brandon) was 44. So much for age appropriate.



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