Today I am reviewing two things, Jane Austen’s Persuasion AND the way I read Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
Author: Jane Austen
Length: 170 pages
I don’t consider myself to be a die hard Jane Austen fan. Romance novels aren’t my cup of tea and it took me three tries to make it through Pride and Prejudice. Despite that, after finishing Persuasion I can say that I have read every single one of her novels. And let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I saved the best for last.
Persuasion was the last book that Austen wrote (it was published post-humously alongside Northanger Abbey). It is definitely her most mature book. For one thing the characters are much older (Anne Elliot is 27). Rather than being dreamy and optimistic, the book starts out with a future that looks very likely to include a sad spinsterhood.
Austen’s wit and sharp tongue are fully in tact, but much more mature, perhaps even subtle. I appreciate the way Austen developed her talent over her lifetime. As a young writer, her witty sparkle was sometimes even overwhelming. In fact, once in a while she sounded just plain angry. If you have ever read “The History of England by A Partial, Prejudiced, and Ignorant Historian” that she wrote as a teenager, you will know what I mean.
The plot moves a bit slower. Less crazy stuff happens (for a long time I was waiting for a dastardly villain to pop into the scene and mess everything up ala Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, but he failed to make a show). Perhaps the slowness is why Persuasion gets such a bad rap online. I heard and was preparing myself for a less fun, less extravagant, less humorous, and all around less interesting novel. I was surprised to find much humor, fun, and romance. It was (granted) much more subtle.
For example, the romance. Oh the romance! Oh it was cute and sweet. However there was no grand meetings or dramatic letters. There were sweet little gestures of care. There was Captain Wentworth offering an umbrella and pulling naughty children off of her. It sounds like nothing, but hey – isn’t that love in the real world? The way Jane Austen describes such teeny but realistic gestures of genuine care was incredible. I just want to absorb her every word.
The humor, character development, and other aspects of the novel were the same as the romance – mature and realistic.
All in all, this was a fun, easy, and short read. It is definitely different than “typical” Austen (seriously though, how typical can you get with only six published books?). However I would say that it stands next to Mansfield Park as one of her very best books.
This was my first time participating in an online read-along community. Heidi at Literary Adventures Along the Brandywine hosted a read-a-long. She posted her favorite quotes and discussion questions every week on her blog. Instead of devouring the whole book in one sitting (which wouldn’t be too hard to do, considering that it is Austen’s shortest novel), I was forced to savor each chapter bit by bit and really think critically about the events, character development, and potential themes.
It was SO fun to have people to talk about the book with while I was reading it. I am completely sold on the online book club and read-along idea. Does anyone have any other classic literature clubs or online reading challenges that I could join?