Less sense, more sensibility
There are so many reviews of this modern retelling of Jane Austen's novel Sense and Sensibility about I feel very late to the party. Here are my impressions.
My Quibbles: The main characters were pretty shallow, self-absorbed and difficult to connect with; slim caricatures of Austen's originals. Two fifty-something unmarried ladies and a seventy-something divorcee talking about themselves and wallowing in misery is not Austenish, at all. What happened to a witty comedy of manners? Maybe that was the author’s point. Are we now more materialistic and bitter than nineteenth-century ladies in the same circumstances? Even though Betty (Mrs. Dashwood) was thrown over by her husband of fifty years for a woman half her age, I began to think he had good reason. Making Miranda (Marianne Dashwood) a calculating literary agent gave me the shivers for those honorable agents in the profession, and Annie (Elinor Dashwood) the librarian, who should be stoic and admirable, is supporting her mother and sister, why? She is more an enabler of bad behavior than a help. Ack! The romance was more than a bit thin, and the end Louisa? Don’t even get me started. Find out for yourself! Definitely less sense and more sensibility all around!
My Praise: Funny, irreverent and quirky. The transformation of Austen’s early-nineteenth century classic to modern-day New York and Westport, Connecticut was a clever notion, mainly because of Schine’s understanding of the social context of both cultures. The Jewish humor was so appropriate. They have been persecuted for centuries and do irony and misery better than anyone else. When seventy-five year old impoverished Betty Weissmann rationalizes a shopping spree to Brooks Brothers and Tiffany’s in New York before she meets her soon-to-be-ex-husband and his attorney (because she must look stunning) you totally believe her and understand her character’s motivation. You do not agree, but you understand. While her daughter Miranda must have a shiny new red kayak to find her soul, you roll your eyes and compare Austen’s Marianne Dashwood romanticizing over dead leaves. Schine follows Austen’s narrative pretty closely and modernizes it surprisingly. The characters are foibled and fraught with emotion and angst. The secondary characters add humor and conflict. If you can overlook some of the shallow soul searching, profligate spending and incredible coincidences that fuel the plot, The Three Weissmanns of Westport was a fun lark, albeit a bit annoying at times.
Laurel Ann, Austenprose