Hooray! I finished the first of my 10 must-read books for 2008—Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
What took me so long to read Persuasion? I read it twice! Why would I do such a thing? The language was such a distraction from the story that I read it once for story and once for language!
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Some people will try to persuade you that this is Jane Austen’s best work. It’s not. But it is similar to her best work, which is, of course, Pride & Prejudice. It has many of the same elements: women looking for husbands, silly parents, a girl who suffers a hurt and has to stay at someone else’s house, a suitor who turns out to be bad, a suitor who turns out to be good, etc. Persuasion is pretty good, but if you’re only going to read one Austen, I say go for P&P.
I enjoyed the language and the humor in Persuasion, but the characters never came to life for me. The main character, Anne Elliot, is always described as wonderful. In fact, her only real fault seems to be that she turned down a marriage proposal when her mentor advised her to. She regrets that mistake for much of the story. However, by the end, she decides that it was a good thing, even though she had to wait something like 8 years before marrying the man she loved and finally getting away from her annoying family. So really, she’s flawless. Hah!
What I did find interesting was Anne’s inability to act on her own behalf. She’s so passive. She is stuck living with her vain father and her obnoxious sister. While young, she receives a proposal from the man she loves, but she allows herself to be talked into rejecting him. A few more years pass, another suitor comes and she rejects him, too. So she continues sitting around for several more years until the first suitor comes back to town.
Initially, she tries to avoid him. When she can’t avoid him, she learns to deal with having him around. Eventually, she decides she wants him back. How does she let him know? One time she talks loudly to someone else about her opinions on relationships, hoping that he’ll overhear. Oh, and one time, she moves herself down several seats at a concert, hoping that he might stop and sit with her for a moment. Positively brazen!
Yes, I mock, but it was fascinating. If women’s lives were really like that back then, then I am mighty glad to be living now.