Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, the Insight Edition from Bethany House is a lovely annotated version of this classic novel. The intended audience is obviously a young Christian girl or someone who is reading the novel for the first time. The notes sit in the margins; they are not too obtrusive or overly verbose, but they do add a dimension to reading the book. Symbols indicate what sort of comment to expect. For example, a feather tells us that we will learn a tidbit about Jane Austen’s life. A small cross will indicate themes of faith drawn from the novel or her life; a small crown leads to historical facts. (“Consumption: tuberculosis; once referred to as consumption because it “consumed” the body. P. 189.) Smiley faces tell us about parts of the novel that make the reader smile, and frownies assure us that the character has become nothing but irritating. (On page 133, “ranking our dislike: 1. Fanny; 2. Lady “Passive-aggressive” Middleton, 3. ..”etc.)
Many of the annotations deal with scenes from film adaptations, which help to clarify them in relation to the book (look for the camera symbol). With the inclusion of these film annotations, Bethany House rightly assumes that many people reading Jane Austen for the first time seek out her novels only after seeing a movie based on her novel.
The foreword by Julie Klassen is short and to the point, and the book group questions in the back are neither pompous nor difficult to discuss. In short, this book provides a wonderful introduction to Sense and Sensibility, one of Jane Austen’s earlier novels and, next to Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, the most accessible to her new fans. Bethany House also offers a Pride and Prejudice edition, which I surmise must contain similar annotations and book group questions.
I highly recommend this book to new readers of Jane Austen, especially those who possess only a cursory knowledge about her life or the Regency era. Before purchasing the book for yourself or a friend or loved one, you should aware of the many notes that pertain to faith. The quotes are informative and not preachy, as on p. 145: “The hard core of morality and even of religion seems to me to be just what makes good comedy possible…where there is no norm, nothing can be ridiculous…” C.S. Lewis, “A Note on Jane Austen, Essays in Criticism.” This edition of Sense and Sensibility points out how Jane’s faith informs her writing and her life, which is natural given that her father and two of her brother were men of the cloth.
In reading this book I am enjoying my revisit with Marianne and Elinor, and the shenanigans of the devious Lucy Steele and mean-spirited Fanny Dashwood. I still find Willoughby’s conduct reprehensible for a man in love, but Colonel Brandon, though a tad boring, makes my heart patter with his devotion and strength of character . The margin notes, written by Jane Austen fans (not scholars) have enriched my enjoyment of this edition, and thus I give it three out of three Regency fans.
About Bethany House: Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, has been publishing Christian fiction books for 50 years. Nearly 120 titles are published annually, including historical and contemporary fiction, Christian living, family, health, devotional, children’s, classics, and theology subjects.
Sense and Sensibility, insight ed. by Jane Austen
Division: Bethany House