Sunday, December 17, 2017

Persuasion: Jane Austen

This is the story of Anne Elliot, the middle child in a family of three girls; at the time of the book she is 27 years old. She lives with her father and her older sister; her mother died with she was young. Her younger sister is married with several children. The members of her family are pretty ghastly. Her father cares for none of his children except Elizabeth, the eldest, who is the prettiest but not a very nice person either. To them, our protagonist is "only Anne." Not to be considered, not to be consulted in decisions. The younger sister, Mary, is as selfish as the others, a hypochondriac, and given to flighty moods.

Anne is quite different from the rest of her family. She is sensible, intelligent, considerate, and willing to help out where needed. She cares for her family but she does clearly see their faults.

Her father has handled his money recklessly and his need to cut back causes them to have to let the family home to a well-to-do naval officer and his wife. As a result of this event, and related decisions, Anne comes back in contact Frederick Wentworth. At nineteen, she fell in love with Wentworth, and he with her, but Lady Russell, her friend and mentor, advised against their marriage and Anne gave in. Now Wentworth, a successful naval captain, has returned to England, but he continues to bear a grudge against Anne for giving into her family and rejecting him. This summary brings us about about a quarter into the book.

Had I read this book first or immediately after reading Pride and Prejudice, I probably would not have loved it so much. At this point I am more familiar with Austen's style of writing. Persuasion is shorter than most of her books and gets straight to the point (or as much as Jane Austen is likely to do). There is much less repetitiveness. It does point out society's shortcomings, but it does not belabor those elements. It was the last novel Austen wrote and was published after her death. Thus it is a more mature novel, and certainly Anne is a more mature protagonist.

Having read four other novels by Jane Austen this year, I feel more confident in being able to rank them. I have appreciated each one for its unique qualities, but at this point I would rank Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion at the top of the list, and Emma, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey at the next level. I will be reading Sense and Sensibility in 2018.


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Publisher:   Book of the Month Club, 1996 (orig. pub. 1818)
Length:      227 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Setting:      UK
Genre:        Literary fiction
Source:      I purchased my copy.


16 comments:

  1. I've only read Persuasion once, as a late teenager, but remember loving it as much as Pride and Prejudice. I should really read it again as I would get something different from it now that I'm (much) older.

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    1. I agree, Cath, you probably would get different things from reading it now. I can understand why people reread Austen every few years.

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  2. I think I would rank them exactly that with S & S coming between EMMA and Mansfield Park.

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    1. Patti, I look forward to reading S & S next. Each one is a different experience.

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  3. Very glad you enjoyed this one, Tracy. It's not the first thing everyone thinks of when thinking of Austen, but it's a good 'un.

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    1. Margot, before reading Persuasion, I was surprised to see that so many readers like this one best, but now I can understand.

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  4. I fell in love with Persuasion when I first read it years ago, and it remains my favourite. There is something very heartfelt about Anne's emotions.

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    1. Susan, I think I like it so much because Anne is an older protagonist (in comparison) and has been through more. Also that Anne is always under appreciated by her family.

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  5. At the risk of repeating myself, rather you than me.

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    1. Col, I am surprised that I have enjoyed them as much as I have. I had only planned to read 3 of them at first. But I do know this isn't your type of reading.

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  6. PERSUASION is always battling with PRIDE AND PREJUDICE to be at the top of my Favorites list. Usually P&P wins out but only just. I'm also fond of the film adaptation of PERSUASION with Ciarin Hinds as Captain Wentworth. Just a lovely, lovely film with Corin Redgrave doing a star turn as the odious father. Amanda Root is wonderful as Anne. I've read PERSUASION twice and will probably read it again at some point. (Old lady memory always makes me approach each reread as if for the first time.)

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    1. I guess I stick with Pride and Prejudice at top spot because of sentimentality, Yvette. The one I have enjoyed so much through the years. But Persuasion is very close behind. I do want to see that adaptation with Ciarin Hinds; I like other films he has been in.

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    2. That movie is a wonderful adapation. All the characters are so well done...The Musgroves, sister Mary, and especially the Crofts. I must pull it out again for viewing.

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    3. The Persuasion DVD is on its way to me from Netflix, Susan. If I like it well enough, I will buy a copy.

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  7. Some people have a theory that you like P&P when you are young, and then grow into loving Persuasion. It is a marvellous book - I saw a play version of this book earlier in the year (which was great) and then re-read it as a result, so I am confident in saying I still love it!

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    1. It is certainly true, Moira, that the older you are when you read it the more likely you are to have experiences that would enhance the reading of this book. I have rented a copy of Persuasion on DVD with Ciaran Hinds. I bet the play was very good.

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