Sunday, 19 March 2017

Book #17

Persuasion by Jane Austen


Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

I've never read an Austen novel I didn't love, but I'm sorry to report the day has arrived. Persuasion is fairly bland, with no real dramatic events, and a lot of sitting around chatting politely.

Our heroine is a paragon of society; polite, accomplished, and ready to be of assistance to anyone who needs it. She's lovely, but also incredibly dull. We're given her history of love with Captain Wentworth without any real glimmer of her passion for him until later in the novel. Wentworth himself is dire, and we are only given a true account of his character in the final stages.

Certainly, there were elements present which I normally love about Austen; the commentary on societal norms, the fascination of rank, class and wealth, and the importance attached to grand appearances, were all there. Austen's scathing remarks as narrator also really hit the spot.

I was torn by the relentless comments on Anne's age of 'seven and twenty', which had attached to them merciless implications that she's entirely past it, and that all youth and charm are now behind her. Now, I know this is a sign of the times, but Jane, I am thirty this year and do not appreciate such assertions.

The most important thing I've taken away from this novel is the importance of decisions we make in life, the requirement for risk, and the danger of inaction leading to misery. This all resounded well with me due to what's currently happening in my life, but I did find myself frustrated at all the dancing around and subtle looks that were going on. Anne Elliot certainly is not one to take the bull by the horns.

It's not a bad book, by any stretch, it's just not the best. The words are beautiful as always, the glimpse into Victorian life, as always, delicious. It's just a bit predictable, with too many characters, and a serious lack of happening.

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