Book # 5 – Persuasion by Jane Austen

emth_persuasion14_1617_57My favorite Austen.  I don’t think I can deny that now, after the third time reading the novel.  When I was assigned Austen novels in school, this is the only one I ever finished by the due date—and that I did twice.  Now reading it on my own, though, I enjoyed it more than ever.

If you’ve been paying attention, I’ve been slowly working my way through Jane Austen, along and around other novels in between, going in mostly chronological order.  My only deviation is that I’m reading this before Emma, rather than the other way around—though I don’t remember why now.

While I love all of Austen’s completed novels, I can’t deny that I find Persuasion to be the fullest reading experience of the six, and the most satisfying read overall.  We are more in the main character’s head than ever before, and further from Austen’s authorial commentary, and at the same time, I have to think that Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth are Austen’s best-matched pair, simply for each of them knowing so thoroughly that the other is so well-made for them.  I also really enjoy the happy portrayals of marriage that Austen includes in this—the Crofts and the elder Musgroves—which are so rare in her other novels.

It’s also much subtler in the social commentary, also.  Of course Anne’s father and sister are ridiculous characters, but the only character who we can assume to truly scorn them—Anne herself is too good and loyal—is Captain Wentworth, and if the reader weren’t as priveleged to Anne’s knowledge of his looks as we are, we might not even know it.  Elizabeth and Sir Walter are, so far as Austen canon goes, let off pretty easily for their pride and vain ways.  They aren’t glorified by any means, but at the same time they don’t end the novel in any worse shape than they begin it, and they may be considered to improve (very slightly) in their opinion of Captain Wentworth’s worth.

The love story is just unbeatable, though.  Something that I suppose anyone who’s ever “let one get away” is half hopeful is possible.  Thomas Hardy has a number of poems about two people who love each other but let their paths go different ways, and either Time (who is generally capitalized and personified in Hardy poems) has taught them to be different people, or they’ve traveled the same amount of time but end up out of step with each other, and that’s what probably happens in life nine out of ten times, people grow up and realize that what they think they wanted once isn’t really what they need, or what’s best for them.

Anne and Wentworth know have a perfect understanding of each other in the first place, though, and when they meet again, it is only meekness on Anne’s part and pride on the Captain’s that keep them from coming together sooner than they do.  I don’t want to spoil the story for those of you who haven’t read it (in which case, get thee to a library—or even Pemberly.com) but if you’re still not convinced, just check out last year’s Masterpiece Theater version with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones (pictured above), you won’t be sorry.  Even die-hard Darcy fans just might find themselves falling for a new Austen man.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Hooker Next Door said,

    I loved the PBS version of Persuasion. It was so good. Except the running scene at the end…. that just didn’t fit nor did it seem accurate! Other than that though I loved it!


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