Sunday, February 3, 2013
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Source: I read from my omnibus edition of Austen's works and on my Nook
Persuasion: a process aimed at changing a person's (or a group's) attitude or behavior toward some event, idea, object, or other person(s), by using written or spoken words to convey information, feelings, or reasoning, or a combination thereof.
Eight years ago, 19-year-old Anne Elliot fell deeply in love with Frederick Wentworth, a young naval officer. But her pompous, elitist father and equally snobbish older sister disapprove of a marriage between the two, feeling Wentworth is not worthy of the daughter of Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall. But it is the opinion of Lady Russell, a dear family friend acting in the capacity of mother to Anne, who persuades the young girl to break off her engagement.
Now 27, Anne is forced to come face-to-face with the man she snubbed when his sister and her husband lease Kellynch Hall. Sir Walter's spendthrift ways have forced him out of his home and he and daughter, Elizabeth, have moved to Bath leaving Anne to move from place to place. Spending time with sister Mary and her in-laws, the Musgroves; a trip to Lyme that introduces new faces into Anne's life: and time in Bath with friends and family cause Anne to experience a full range of emotions. But, as with all of Austen's novels, good will triumph.
I read Persuasion as part of a readalong hosted by Wallace of The Unputdownables. I spent the entire time playing catch up due to a very slow start. It's all well and good to have all of an author's works in one book but it makes for miserable reading. My book was so heavy I hated to hold it to read and the pages were so large and the writing so small that I never felt like I was getting any where. And to that the fact that this may be Austen's slowest developing novel.
I've read Persuasion before and found it so be in what I would consider the bottom tier of Austen's works for me. A reread hasn't changed my opinion much. Anne is certainly Austen's most passive heroine; not until late in the book does she finally start to try to make things happen for herself. And never once does she stand up to anyone, something I've always admired in Austen's females, particularly in light of the time the books were written.
Still, even a lesser Austen novel is better than most books. Imagine being a woman who has the temerity to absolutely skewer the upper class at the turn of the nineteenth century. Sir Walter is so vain that Captain Croft is forced to remove numerous mirrors from Sir Walter's dressing room when the Crofts move into Kellynch Hall. Elizabeth and Sir Walter take a friend, Mrs. Clay, along with them to Bath but even so continue to make it clear that they consider her below them.
Family is no less a target of Austen's bite. Sisters who insist that the best of the three of them is the least useful, family who thinks it's just as well that a son died in war because he was never going to amount to anything anyway, cousins who can only associate with each other under certain circumstances because of their different places in society.
Austen became ill during the writing of Persuasion and according to some sources was unable to polish it in the same way as her other books. Perhaps that accounts for me liking it less. I will probably never reread it - on the other hand, I will never get rid of my copy. After all, if I ever find myself stranded on a desert island, my omnibus edition of Austen's works will be with me!