Jane Austen Study, Part 1: Sense and Sensibility

The “studying Jane Austen because it’s mentally beneficial to have something to do” plan is going well! Here’s the order I did for Sense and Sensibility:

1. The movie with Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)


2. The annotated book:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)


3. Emma Thompson’s screenplay and film diary:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)


4. The BBC series:

(image from Amazon.com)

(image from Amazon.com)


It occurs to me that this might make a nice gift set for someone. Kind of expensive, but maybe just the thing for, like, your mom who’s so hard to shop for. It’s like a fun Jane Austen class kit. Maybe add a pretty teacup, and some tea, and some fancy cookies.

I liked both movie versions, but preferred the first one. This could be due to several things:

1. I saw the Emma Thompson one first. When I was reading opinions online of which version was best, it seemed like a lot of the arguments had “THIS ONE IS BETTER FOR MANY INTELLECTUAL AND LOGICAL REASONS” on the surface, and “I saw that one first so it seems Right to me” underneath.

2. I was familiar with (and fond of) the actors of the Emma Thompson one, and not with the actors in the BBC one.

3. I saw the Emma Thompson one before I read the book. This could be crucial: by the time I saw the BBC one, I was watching with a more critical eye. It seems to me that the Emma Thompson one more accurately portrayed the book—but that could easily be because when I saw it, I hadn’t yet READ the book.

4. As mentioned in #3, it seemed to me that the Emma Thompson one was much closer to the book. INTELLECTUAL AND LOGICAL REASONS.

5. By the time I watched the BBC version, I was getting a little tired of the story.

6. Maybe I just liked it better. That can happen.


I definitely recommend the annotated book, though now I would like to read ANOTHER annotation, because there were a number of places where I thought, “Oh, I’m glad I’m reading an annotated book so I can get an explanation for THIS!”—and then there WASN’T one. A careful definition of the word “mean” as in stingy, but no explanation of why it’s shocking for Willoughby to say “You are too good.”

I also do recommend reading the book (annotated or not) AFTER seeing the movie. It was so much easier for me to understand the book that way, and then the book is especially pleasing because it adds MORE: more characters, more dialogue, more interactions, more explanations. Really very pleasing and interesting.

Maureen and Nancy recommended Emma Thompson’s screenplay and diary; my library system didn’t have it, but I found a used copy on Amazon for $4.00 (1 penny plus $3.99 shipping). I only skimmed the screenplay itself; what I wanted was the DIARY. And it was completely worth it. It made me love Emma Thompson EVEN MORE, and was 75 pages of little details about the making of the movie: cast/director disputes and anecdotes, set/lighting/weather problems, kissing Hugh Grant, etc. It made me want to (1) watch the movie again and (2) be BEST FRIENDS with Emma Thompson. Very satisfying.

I’d thought I might go on and do more study, but by the time I finished the BBC movie (actually a 3-part miniseries, but I watched it like a movie), I’d had about as much Sense and Sensibility as I wanted for now.

My plan was to start right in on Pride and Prejudice next, but I got distracted by some books that came in for me at the library, and also a book I found at Goodwill, and also by a Shirley Jackson kick triggered by Shelf Love, and also by getting ready for company.

13 thoughts on “Jane Austen Study, Part 1: Sense and Sensibility

  1. Lilly Handmade

    If you haven’t already, please do watch Emma Thompson’s acceptance speeches for the golden globe and the Bafta she won for this one. She is so personable; she wrote one speech in the guise of Austen herself.

  2. Corinne Brzeski

    I’m reading the annotated Persuasion right now. I had no idea there was such a thing as annotated Austen, and I really like it. It took me a while to get used to the format – it felt like a lot of interruptions at first, going back and forth. But now I have kind of a system where I read 3 or 4 annotations ahead, so I have the info in my head when I see the footnotes, and I’m not interrupting the text so much. Only about twice a page, which is just right.
    So thanks for the tip! I’ve often felt like I *should* like Austen more but I just couldn’t get into them. Now I have the secret decoder ring.

  3. KeraLinnea

    I love Emma Thompson. Especially after reading an interview in which she admitted that she keeps her Oscar in her guest bathroom, because everyone should get to stand in front of a mirror in privacy and pretend to accept an Oscar and give their speech. LOVE.

  4. Sarah

    I loved the Emma Thompson diary of that film… I can’t remember when I read it exactly but I remember having the exact same feelings of “oh, why can’t I be FRIENDS with her?? We would so clearly be compatible! And also just why can’t I make movies and be British, while we’re at it?”

  5. Jenny

    I love the Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility movie so much. The way Edward and Colonel Brandon treat Margaret is so charming. Among many other things.

  6. Frenchie

    What is your plan for Pride and Prejudice? I love all things Jane Austen myself, but have never even thought about going the annotated route. If you share your plan, maybe some of us will be able to follow along!!

  7. Susan

    I love the Emma Thompson version for reasons, logic, and Alan Rickman saying “Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad.” Also Hugh Laurie.

    I just started reading Shirley Jackson for the first time yesterday. I’ll have to go read Shelf Love next. Thanks for mentioning it here!

  8. Holly

    I just read the Diary of Emma Thompson’s after you recommended it (I LOVE the movie), and it prompted a google search of how old Emma is (I always thought she seemed old to be Elinor, and I guess she was supposed to be mid-twenties, and when she filmed it she was more mid-thirties), and I saw she is married to Greg Wise (since 2003) and then I realized, that’s WILLOUGHBY and I had to go back into the diaries to see the comments she’d made about him since that was 1995 and probably the first time they’d met, and in 8 years they’d be MARRIED and I think that’s so interesting/weird/fun!

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