Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen, 1811

Austen’s first novel, this is a funny and ironic look at social mores, money, love, and the entire world of early 19th C England.  The Dashwoods—mother, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret—are turned out of their country estate Norland, when the father dies and leaves everything to his son, John, the stepbrother of the sisters.  John’s wife, Fanny, one of many horrid characters, prevents his promised generosity to his sisters and mother, and they are relocated to a cottage, Barton, in Devonshire upon the real generosity of Lord and Lady Middleton, who also have their foibles—Lord Middleton believing that everyone is hale and hearty and good and Lady Middleton who specializes in doing nothing and believing badly about everyone.  Her mother, Mrs. Jennings is a good soul.  Colonel Brandon, Edward Villars, Willoughby, Mr. and Mrs Palmer (Charlotte), and other colorful characters complete the cast and all are involved in gossip, back stabbing, intrigue and other adventures driven on the positive side (Elinor and Marianne, Edward and Colonel Brandon) by love and honesty and on the negative side (Willoughby, Charlotte, Lady Middleton, Mrs. Villars) by greed, status, and power.  Austen has wonderful skills in understanding the failures of individuals and how society shapes those and translating them onto the page.  A hard time getting into it, but thoroughly enjoyable as the stories swirl around each other and tie up into a neat little package at the conclusion.