Firstly, a confession: until I came to be offered the opportunity to rewrite Sense and Sensibility, the closest I had come to Jane Austen was TV reruns of Mr Darcy emerging wet from a lake, and a reluctant trudge around her house with an obsessive friend. Not even my grandmother’s entreaties to the 13-year-old bookworm me that ‘it’s feminist, it’s funny’ could persuade me away from my pony novels and into the pages populated by the Bennets, the Elliots, the Dashwoods. ‘Too old-fashioned,’ I am sure I whined. ‘Too uncool,’ I am sure I thought.
Well, it may have taken more than three decades, but I quickly realised the folly of my own pride and prejudice, and have now eaten my ill-chosen words, for Austen is modern and relevant, as well as being funny and, yes, feminist. Though the world she paints is markedly different to our own, the heroines of Sense and Sensibility, Marianne and Elinor, are recognisable and endearing. We root for them in their endurance of the customs of the time, and in their pursuit by various men; we boo as Willoughby snubs the impassioned Marianne, and cheer as patient Elinor gets her Edward. There is something to learn here, about the predicament of women in the late Regency period, but more importantly, much to love. I hope you fall as hard for Jane Austen as I have done. Because there are many more treasures to read after this one.