Off The Bookshelf: Sense and Sensibility

Back in January, I finally returned to my Off The Bookshelf segment with a review of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. So today, I’d like to continue my reviews by writing about the other Austen novel I read last year. Since I’ve definitely been enjoying reading her literature, there was really only one novel could I review next: Sense and Sensibility!

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

Summary

Sense and Sensibility was Austen’s debut novel, first published in London in 1811. The story follows sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood as they adjust to their new life with their widowed mother and younger sister, who have all been left impoverished after Mr. Dashwood’s death. Over the course of the narrative, the sisters experience love, romance, and heartbreak, and eventually come to realize that they must learn to master the delicate balance between sense and sensibility in order to achieve happiness.

Review

Though I wouldn’t say I liked it as much as Pride and Prejudice, I enjoyed Sense and Sensibility for Austen’s realistic take on romance and manners, seasoned with all her classic humor and wit. Much like in the author’s more popular novel, the main characters of this story are faced with the challenge of finding love in a world where their low income and social status put them at a severe disadvantage. What really sets this novel apart from its successor, however, is the comparison it draws between the tempers of Elinor and Marianne, who each occupy one extreme of the romance-realism spectrum.

Movie poster for Sense and Sensibility (1995)

As the title suggests, the most prominent theme in Sense and Sensibility is the contrast between good sense and overt sensitivity (known as sensibility back then). As the eldest Dashwood sister, Elinor has the best judgment in her family and is highly skilled at exercising good sense and composure. Her younger sister Marianne, on the other hand, has no control over her emotions and no desire to keep her overly sensitive demeanor in check, favoring romantic idealism over etiquette. This contrast between their personalities makes for several interesting situations throughout the story, but in the end both sisters learn the same valuable lesson: too much sense or sensibility only leads to unhappiness. Only after Elinor learns to open her heart to sensibility and Marianne learns to temper her spontaneity with sense do they both achieve their happy endings.

Another major theme in the book is the role of money and social standing in romance. Though her novels all have happy endings, Jane Austen was never one to tell an idealistic love story; in her view, even the truest love isn’t immune to the real-world obstacle of low income. In the most notable example, Marianne and Willoughby seem like a perfect match: they’re both romantic and outspoken about their opinions on art and love, and spend so much time together that everyone assumes they’re engaged before they even say a word. Unfortunately, being one of the author’s well-known “hero caricatures”, the charming Willoughby couldn’t be anything less than a scoundrel, and sure enough, his expensive tastes coupled with Marianne’s poverty lead him to jilt her for a wealthy young lady he doesn’t love. Funnily enough, the same obstacle of wealth turns out to be a saving grace for Edward Ferrars, who for most of the story finds himself honor-bound to a loveless engagement only to be saved at the end from said commitment by his disinheritance from his mother, leaving him free to give his heart to Elinor after his conniving fiancé abandons him. From beginning to end, wherever there are love and romance, the shadow of money looms in the background.

Overall, Sense and Sensibility is an enjoyable read that shows less-than-idealistic romance in a humorous light, as well as an interesting dynamic of character development between two polar opposite sisters. Just as Marianne learns from Elinor that excessive emotion can destroy one’s life, Elinor learns from Marianne that excessive repression of emotion leads to intense suffering and risk of abandonment. Still, in true Austen fashion, both sisters achieve their happy endings by the story’s conclusion, finding comfortable lives with gentlemen who can provide them with all the security and emotional fulfillment they desire. In this way, from her very first novel, the author reveals that despite all the realistic obstacles in its way, romance can still thrive in a world plagued with social barriers, a hope not yet forgotten in the modern age.

Inspiration

Much like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility offers a glimpse into the romantic and realistic elements of past life that have survived into the present. The novel also teaches a valuable lesson on the importance of both practicing good sense and being willingly sensitive, albeit a somewhat imbalanced one that favors sense. We shouldn’t give our emotions total control over our happiness, but we also shouldn’t be afraid to feel vulnerable in the pursuit of love. There are plenty of opportunities in life to be both sensible and sensitive; it’s all a matter of exercising the right judgment.

Though her novels often highlight the limitations placed on women in the society of her day, Jane Austen clearly had a way of demonstrating the strength that women have always had to succeed within their means. Because of that, I know I can always turn to one of her novels for inspiration on writing heroines with real personalities, issues, and aspirations. Whether you seek inspiration for historical fiction, realistic characters, or contrasting themes in human behavior, Sense and Sensibility is an excellent novel that warrants a place beside Pride and Prejudice on any Austen fan’s bookshelf.

To Love Someone Forever

To love someone intensely is to feel
Complete beside the person you adore.
When life gives you a love so pure and real,
You live each day to feel it more and more.

To love someone with all your heart and soul
Is finding one with whom to share your life,
So when your trials start to take their toll,
You’ll find peace with your husband or your wife.

To love someone forever is to know
The joy of having someone on your side.
No matter what you do or where you go,
You’ll always be together for the ride.

All that I’ve learned of love, you two taught me.
I love you! Happy Anniversary!

Love and Friendship: 5 Types of “Friends First” Romance

This week marks a special occasion for two of the most important people in my life, the couple who taught me everything I know about love, especially the value of romance born from friendship. Thinking about their love has inspired me to write about the different levels of “friends first” romance and my favorite fictional couples who started as friends. There are many types of romance I admire, but love based on friendship is by far my favorite!

So to celebrate the occasion, here is a list of five types of romance based on friendship, with my favorite examples of fictional couples for each. Enjoy!

1) Coming-of-Age Romance – Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (Harry Potter)

Being an avid fan of the Harry Potter books, Hermione and Ron are one of my favorite examples of a Childhood Friend Romance couple. Though they don’t like each other very much when they first meet, they quickly become close friends as the series progresses, and even more than that by the time they reach young adulthood. Through all their arguments and disagreements, Ron and Hermione clearly harbor some complicated romantic feelings for each other in the second half of the saga, so when they finally get together in the last book, it’s nothing short of epic. A magical love story indeed!

2) Reunited Childhood Friends – Simba and Nala (The Lion King)

If you grew up with Disney movies like I did, you no doubt have fond memories of watching (and probably singing along to) The Lion King. Though the central theme of the story is Simba’s coming of age, his romance with Nala deserves special mention as a classic example of how best friends can turn out to be soulmates as well. After being separated as children, these two lions are reunited in adulthood by chance and, in true Disney fashion, quickly fall in love by rekindling the affection they’ve always had for one another. Nala does whatever she can to push Simba in the right direction, while Simba is ready to defend Nala and the rest of their pride after gaining the sense to return home. From their adventures as cubs to the final battle for Pride Rock, these best friends prove they’ll always have each other’s back, so after they reclaim their home at the end of the story, you know the Pride Lands will be ruled by the best king and queen ever!

3) Lifelong Love – Carl and Ellie Fredricksen (Up)

On the other hand, sometimes childhood friends end up staying together their whole lives, and the best of these friendships turn into a romance for the ages. Such is the case of Carl and Ellie Fredricksen from Pixar’s 2009 film Up, who’s four-minute montage of their marriage tells one of the greatest love stories ever seen in a Disney movie. From exploring old abandoned houses as children to sharing a loving home into old age, these two adventurers at heart were clearly meant to be together for life. Seriously, just try to watch the beginning of this film without tearing up! Sweetest romance ever!

4) Crossing Paths – Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran (Forrest Gump)

The childhood friends of the famous 1994 film, Forrest Gump and Jenny Curran are a classic example of a pair of soulmates whom fate continuously throws into and out of each other’s lives. After growing up together in 1950s Alabama, they end up going their separate ways after college, from which point Forrest’s story mentions several reunions between them up to the present day. Despite living so far apart from her for much of his life, it’s made abundantly clear by the end of the story that Forrest never stopped loving Jenny since they were kids, and that deep down she always knew he was the right man for her. It may not be the happiest of romances, but Forrest and Jenny had a beautiful love story nonetheless!

5) On Again, Off Again – Ross Geller and Rachel Green (Friends)

Every fan of Friends remembers the on-again-off-again rollercoaster that was Ross and Rachel’s relationship. Having grown up on the same street, these two friends have known each other since childhood, though at the time they were really friends by extension through Monica. After their reunion as adults in the first season, it becomes apparent that the crush Ross developed on Rachel in high school never burned out, which leads to ten years of one of the most complicated friendships ever. Although they suffered many breakups and makeups throughout the series (“We were on a break!”), Ross and Rachel’s unwavering love would inevitably lead them back to each other in the end, solidifying their status as one of television’s favorite couples. Best friends for life!

Who are your favorite “friends first” couples? What other examples of “friends first” romance would you add to this list?

Dedicated to my parents, the happiest couple I know. Thank you for teaching me everything I know about true love! Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! I love you!

Around the Corner

I’ll never forget the night I returned.

It was my first good night of sleep in weeks, the night I finally stopped crying ’til three in the morning and wishing I were anywhere or anyone else in the world. That was the night I won myself back.

The third track of my once-favorite punk rock CD was echoing its second verse through my headphones as I sat curled up on my bedroom floor surrounded by a mix of tear-stained sheets of paper, torn photos, and used tissues. I would have stayed there all night, like I had every other night, if I hadn’t opened my eyes just then and seen something that made me scream.

A person was standing there, staring down at me with a look of sheer disappointment. I was terrified, not because I had never seen her before, but because I knew exactly who she was regardless. Her face was a little more mature and she might have been slightly taller than me, but there was no mistaking her: this was myself from the future.

“Hello,” she said the moment I pulled my headphones off. “Nice to see you again.”

I stared at her in silence.

“Twelve years,” she continued. “In case you’re wondering.”

It must have taken me at least five minutes to find my voice, but she didn’t seem to mind waiting.

“I see we’re not over him yet,” she said, looking around the room. “He really did a number on us, didn’t he? I remember this mess. Took us weeks to clean up. Depression is the worst stage of grief.”

“Wha–” I finally stammered. “What are you doing here?”

She shrugged. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m here to help you.”

Those words made my heart skip a beat. “Are you here to make me feel better? To tell me that everything’ll be okay? That he and I can still be friends?”

“Not exactly,” she said, leaning closer to me. “You see, I told myself that if I ever got the chance to travel back in time, the first thing I’d do was visit my sixteen-year-old self and…”

She reached out and smacked me square across the face. It stung like a dozen white hot needles in my skin.

“…slap her for being so stupid.”

I faced her again, one hand on my cheek. “Ow! What the hell’d you do that for?”

“To knock some sense into you,” she replied, standing up again. “You don’t understand this now, but you’re way better than this. At least, you’re going to be.”

“What are you talking about?”

“This!” She gestured around the room. “Love letters? Photo albums? Emo music? Come on, girl, get it together! It’s over! He doesn’t want you anymore. He’ll never want you again. It’s time to move on.”

“But…” I sniffed, the ever familiar tears welling again. “But I can’t imagine my life without him!”

“Oh, please! You’re sixteen! You can’t imagine your life without Evanescence! And trust me, they’ll get old faster than you think.”

I looked down, blushing. “Did you come here just to humiliate me?”

“No, I just have to be blunt with you first. Things are going to get worse before they get better. As soon as you think you’re getting over him, you’re going to see him with someone new, and it’s going to crush you. You’ll start wondering what you did wrong, what’s the matter with you, why can’t he love you like you love him. You’ll think you drove him away and this breakup really is your fault. It’s not. You don’t realize this yet, but the guy you’re so heartbroken over right now is a total jerk. You may still care about him, but he never really cared about you.”

“That’s not true!”

“No? When was the last time he complimented you or went out of his way to do something nice for you? Heck, when was the first time? Face it, he used you to boost his ego, that’s all. And now he’s tired of you and using some lame excuse about focusing on school to keep your hopeful little heart on a string while he moves on. You have to get over him, and soon. I don’t want you, us, to be hung up on him a minute longer than we have to.”

“So what do you want?”

“To show you this.” She handed me a photograph pulled out of her coat pocket. In the picture was a tall, sandy-haired man, about thirty years old, with soft brown eyes and a smile just imperfect enough to give him a quirky sort of charm. I looked up at the future me and shrugged.

“Who is he?” I said. She smiled.

“That, my dear, is your future best friend… and the man you’re going to marry.”

I wasn’t ready to believe it, until I saw her wave the diamond ring on her finger at me. I can’t remember exactly how I reacted. Maybe I just stared, maybe I smiled, maybe I froze for several minutes before I shouted with joy. All I remember after that moment is my future self crouching in front of me and looking me in the eye as she spoke in the kindest voice she had used yet.

“He’s going to fall in love with you because you’re smart and adorable and incredibly loving. You’re going to fall in love with him because he’s sweet and funny and genuinely cares about you. He’s going to ask you to marry him because he can’t imagine his life without you. And you’re going to say yes because the way you think you feel about your ex-boyfriend right now is the way you’re actually going to feel about him.”

I looked down at the photo again, this time with the biggest smile I’d given in months. He was pretty cute, now that I thought about it. So this was my future husband? And I’d only have to wait less than a decade to meet him? It was the first hopeful news I’d heard since being dumped. The future me took the photo back and placed a hand under my chin.

“See? It’s not the end of the world. So dry those tears, keep your chin up, and remember that every broken heart is the start of a new journey. True love is just around the corner.”

And with that, she rose to her feet, stepped back into the shadows, and vanished, like she was never there. I might have believed she wasn’t, that it was all a dream, had it not been for the wide grin brightening my face and last night’s hastily scribbled note sitting on my nightstand when I awoke the next morning.

I’m glad I decided to return to that day and talk some sense into myself. I did eventually get over my ex, start dating again, move on with my life. I found love a few years later, waiting for me around the corner just as I’d promised myself, and since then, I’ve never been happier.


Dedicated to my wonderful boyfriend, the love and light of my life. Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart! I love you!

6 of My Favorite Fictional Couples

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, which means many of us creative writers are thinking more than ever about romance (at least, I am). All the talk of love in the air has gotten me thinking about my favorite love stories and the characters who bring them to life. February is the perfect month for romantic inspiration, so it’s no wonder I always take this time to indulge in stories about my favorite fictional couples. To be honest, there are probably too many to count, but I’ve managed to narrow my current favorites down to a few that I’d love to write about!

So to celebrate the upcoming holiday, here’s a list of six of my favorite fictional couples and why I love them. Enjoy, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Warning: the following post may contain spoilers for Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, and The Hunger Games. Proceed with caution.

1) Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet

Could I really have started with any other couple? Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet has long been my favorite love story, so much so that I’ve written a post about it every year since I started blogging and even adapted the story into my own novel-length fanfiction (not sorry). It’s a tragic tale of passion thwarted by fate, and it may well be the most famous love story ever told.

Romeo and Juliet started out as lost and lonely teenagers who quickly found meaning for their lives in each other. They defied a generations-old feud through a forbidden love affair, complete with consummated marriage and the determination to be together at all costs. And though they didn’t get the happy ending they arguably deserved, they did immortalize themselves as the star-crossed young couple whose love finally ended years of violence and hatred. Love may not conquer all, but it’s still one of the most powerful forces on Earth!

2) Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger

To anyone who knows me well, it’s no secret that the Harry Potter books have been my favorite series since childhood. I grew up with J.K. Rowling’s beloved fantasy books and have been in love with her magical world for most of my life. Each new book was better than the last, and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I reached the second half of the series to find she had tossed the exact romantic subplot I wanted into the mix.

Ron and Hermione had a rocky start to their relationship, even as friends. Every Potter fan who read the entire series watched them grow from disgruntled acquaintances to close friends to jealous crushes to will-they-or-won’t-they admirers to romantic couple to happily married couple. It’s the perfect example of a childhood friend romance gone right, and Rowling couldn’t have done a better job of timing this beautiful love story all the way to its satisfying conclusion. Best friends forever indeed!

3) Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy

I finally got around to reading Pride and Prejudice last year, and I have to say it’s such a delightful story that I’ve ranked it among my favorite books ever. The story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is a complex tale of true love concealed beneath (and often obstructed by) a veil of manners and morality, with a hint of irony to comically highlight the incongruence between a charming demeanor and a good heart. These two are the ultimate proof that when it comes to romance, first impressions don’t matter as much as character, assuming both parties are willing to open their minds to humility and their hearts to the possibility of love where it’s least expected. Jane Austen was truly a master of romantic comedies!

4) Monica Geller and Chandler Bing

Ross and Rachel may have been the star couple of Friends, with their ten-season-long will-they-or-won’t-they story that culminated in a heartwarming “they will” (“I got off the plane!“), but my favorite romance in the series was the far more stable relationship between Monica and Chandler. After hooking up the night before Ross’s wedding in England, these two best friends embarked on a beautiful journey of love that became the saving grace of the show. You didn’t think viewers would hang around for ten seasons just to see Ross and Rachel get together for good, did you?

Monica and Chandler are a classic example of a romantic experiment that worked. While Friends didn’t start with the expectation of getting them together, their chemistry was so great from the earliest seasons that their entire relationship, from friendship to happy marriage, just felt natural and real. Sometimes true love really has been right in front of you all along!

5) Marshall Eriksen and Lily Aldrin

While diehard fans of How I Met Your Mother are still arguing over which couple was better in the Ted-Robin-Barney love triangle (Ted and Robin FTW!), I’m sure everyone can agree that Marshall and Lily were the most adorable pair in the series. Not only were they college sweethearts and each other’s first love, they maintained a loving and (mostly) stable relationship all the way to the show’s conclusion. From engagement to marriage to parenthood, these two continuously took on the challenges of a committed relationship and kept knocking them out of the park. And let’s be honest: while we all waited nine seasons for Ted to finally get to his happy ending, wasn’t it fun to watch Marshmallow and Lily Pad already living theirs? Seriously, cutest couple ever!

6) Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark

I admit it: I was one of the Hunger Games fans who cheered for Katniss and Peeta from the start. Not that I had anything against Katniss and Gale; I just preferred the dynamic between the two characters who were thrown into the Games together. Katniss has a strong spirit, which often manifests as a hardened demeanor and a refusal to show weakness through emotion. Peeta, on the other hand, is considerably softer and more sensitive, though no less strong in spirit than his fellow tribute. Their chemistry not only makes for an interesting relationship but a refreshing departure from the stereotypical “strong man, weak woman” pattern. An innovative love story for the novels’ young adult audience!

Over the course of three books/four movies, District 12’s “star-crossed” duo endure two Hunger Games and a revolution, through which they evolve from acquaintances to allies to a fake couple and finally emerge as a real couple in love. They go to hell and back for the greater cause at hand, but draw enough strength from each other to never lose themselves on the way (at least, not completely). So when these two finally earn their happy ending, you know it’s a love that’ll last. It seems the odds were in their favor after all!

What about you? Who are your favorite fictional couples? What love stories inspire your romantic fiction?

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