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Persuasion by Jane Austen (Thoughts)

November 17, 2011

From the publisher’s website:
In the novel, Anne Elliot, the heroine Austen called ‘almost too good for me,’ has let herself be persuaded not to marry Frederick Wentworth, a fine and attractive man without means. Eight years later, Captain Wentworth returns from the Napoleonic Wars with a triumphant naval career behind him, a substantial fortune to his name, and an eagerness to wed. Austen explores the complexities of human relationships as they change over time. ‘She is a prose Shakespeare,’ Thomas Macaulay wrote of Austen in 1842. ‘She has given us a multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, commonplace. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings.’

Persuasion is the third book I’ve read by Jane Austen (Emma and Pride & Prejudice being the others) and one I’ve been looking forward to reading as lots of people seem to like it even more than Pride & Prejudice. While I enjoyed Persuasion and delving into Jane Austen’s world again, it didn’t quite hit P&P levels for me.

Persuasion is a gentle, unassuming kind of book, and Anne herself is a gentle, unassuming character. One of the things I really like about Jane Austen is her characters, and there is no shortage of Characters in Persuasion, especially in Anne’s family. We have Sir Elliot, the pompous, self-indulgent father; Elizabeth, self-abosorbed eldest sister; and Mary – what a piece of work Mary is. It’s no wonder Anne chose to spend most her time with Lady Russell. Why were they all so mean to her??

I also really like how wonderfully Austen captures the anxiety and awkwardness of coming face to face with a long lost love interest, and how great her characters are at trying to convince themselves that they are perfectly okay and not affected whatsoever. I loved the all the scenes that threw Anne and Wentworth together. And yes, Persuasion has a very satisfying ending.

I was expecting to love Persuasion more than I did, but I think this was a case of Too High Expectations. I do think, though, thatPersuasion is the kind of book that the more times I read it, the more I’ll like it. Which makes me glad I own a copy of it, because yes there will be re-reads in its future.

My rating: 8/10

My next Austen will probably be Sense & Sensibility, since it’s on my bookshelf. Is it among your favourite Austens?

Also, I watched the Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of Persuasion. Are there any others I should watch?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2011 9:35 am

    The Masterpiece theater version is good but the 1995 movie with Amanda Root and Cirain Hinds (sp) is much better. Sophie Thompson as Mary is a hoot.

  2. November 17, 2011 12:12 pm

    I have a lot to say about Persuasion. I think it’s the deepest, and most honest, of all Austen’s books. So often she gives her heroines “flaws” that are actually good traits in disguise (pluckiness, self-confidence). But Anne Elliott is truly flawed. She lets herself be swayed. She’s weak. And so there’s something real for her to overcome.

    And I think the love story is one of the most real, too. A lot of times, I feel like Austen heros hang around until its time for them to accept the heroine’s love. Capt. Wentworth loves Anne–and must prove it–and Anne must prove her love for him, too.

    I think it’s the best of her novels by far, though I do like Sense and Sensibility, and very much enjoyed the movie version with Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson. Also second the recommendation with Amanda Root that the previous commenter mentioned!

  3. November 17, 2011 12:19 pm

    Persuasion is good but not P&P great. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and even though it ranks high up there, it still doesn’t beat out P&P. I’m a bigger fan of Sense & Sensibility (my favorite of Austen’s) but not many people like it as much as I do. I’m OK with that; I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Elinor and Marianne.

    • November 30, 2011 8:37 pm

      Amy, I have to disagree with you. The difference between these two stories is that while Lizzy is still young and callous, Anne has lost at love and feels deeply her regret of being swayed. Her good sense allows her to act kindly to those who do not deserve it but she is well aware of the flaws around her. Both women have to battle snobby relatives and poorly drawn perceptions of the other person. But as I have gotten older I have come to realize that Persuasion is the better story because it is tinged with regret.

  4. Kiri permalink
    January 19, 2012 3:39 am

    Sense and Sensibility isn’t one of my favourite Austens. Mansfield park is a good read though.

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  1. Advent with Austen: Persuasion by Jane Austen « The Sleepless Reader

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