I must say that I came into this book with mixed feelings about Jane Austen. I read Sense and Sensibility and hated it, but then tried Pride and Prejudice and simply adored it. (I’ve since been told that I need to give the former another try, and I intend to…eventually. But I digress…)
Persuasion was much more in the style of P&P, and I enjoyed it immensely. There’s so much to love!
- First, the language of the story itself. I love this specific old-fashioned style of writing – it just draws me in, and I can’t help finding it so interesting.
- Then, Anne’s not being able to help loving Captain Wentworth. How can one not? In the narrative, he’s quite perfect: gentlemanly as ever, the soul of integrity, ruddy and handsome, and perfectly disposed toward her. (Sidenote: Because of her emotions this way, one can tell from the very beginning that they simply must end up together, and it’s only a matter of how. I don’t consider it a spoiler to say this since it’s perfectly obvious.) I find it even more to her credit that she broke off their engagement (before the start of the novel), despite loving Wentworth deeply, at the practical advice of a dear friend. It speaks to her trust in the wisdom of those who love her, and her integrity in general, even though the decision brought considerable pain to herself and to him.
- I love that Anne visits Mrs Smith despite her family’s disapproval. She determines to maintain a friendship because it’s simply the good thing to do, despite the widow’s current financial status. Anne’s family is entirely shallow, and they seem to lack any genuine sincerity in anything – except making and preserving relations with wealthy people. *sigh*
- Captain Wentworth himself – need it be said?
- Irony: “Her spirits wanted the solitude and silence which only numbers could give.” (p. 65)
- Humor: “…it occupied a little time to settle the point of civility between the other two. The rain was a mere trifle, and Anne was most sincere in preferring a walk with Mr Elliot. But the rain was also a mere trifle to Mrs Clay; she would hardly allow it even to drop at all, and her boots were so thick! much thicker than Miss Anne’s; and, in short, her civility rendered her quite as anxious to be left to walk with Mr Elliot, as Anne could be… Mr Elliot deciding on appeal, that his cousin Anne’s boots were rather the thickest.” (129)
- Several serious selections, too, which give one pause to consider: “…when pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure. One does not love a place less for having suffered in it…” (136)
A few spoilers I found very interesting:
I was quite taken aback when Louisa and Captain Benwick ended up together. Of all the things I expected, this was NOT one of them. They seem so ill-suited to each other! Ah, well.
Wentworth’s letter was perfectly marvelous. Oh, I was squirming as I read it! And he was so sly about leaving it for Anne, too. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
I’ve noticed a pattern in Austen’s novels of one central love interest not having near the upstanding character everyone seems to think he has – P&P’s Mr Wickham, S&S’s John Willoughby, and now Persuasion’s Mr Elliot (although in P&P there is also the reverse misunderstanding, where Darcy has an upstanding character when everything thinks he doesn’t). This seems to be her main twist for subplots. Very intriguing.
All in all, Persuasion is an excellent read. I find in Anne a very engaging, sympathetic character, and in Austen an engaging, dramatic style.