Review of Persuasion by Jane Austen

It is a good while since I have read any Austen, so I was looking forward to this a lot.  The universe thought it would have a little laugh at my expense first though.  I have a beautiful bound copy of all the Austen novels with illustrations.  However, it is fairly heavy to hold, never mind cart around with you, so I ordered a 99p copy of Kindle – I know – I’m sorry, but it was just easier.

I began to read one night and grew increasingly perplexed.  Austen had lost, not only some of her skill in writing prose, but there was a decided lack of her trademark wit and intelligence.  Bemused, I am ashamed to admit I read until Chapter Three before I realized something was drastically wrong.  I went downstairs to my bookshelf to consult my hard-back copy.  Needless to say, it was completely different.  My kindle edition was some sort of very badly abridged version.   I wrote a strongly worded complaint to Amazon and got my 99p back, but not my pride.

Persuasion cover

Anyway, on to the correct version of the novel.   Once normal service had resumed, I was delighted to find I enjoyed this book enormously.   Austen is a master of both storytelling and characterization.

Anne Elliot had been in love with Frederick Wentworth at the age of 19.  He had proposed marriage, but Anne had been persuaded not to marry him by her friend Lady Russell (remind you of any other Austen novels?!)  due to his lack of wealth and standing.   Despite loving him she gave him up.  He went off to join the navy utterly heartbroken.

Anne is now 27 and has lost her beautiful first flush of beauty and bloom, due to allowing herself to be talked out of marriage, and the general hassle of living with a vain father – Sir Walter Elliot and two hideous sisters.  Anne’s elder sister Elizabeth seems to be even worse. She is as vain as her father and only cares how she appears to others and what she can get for herself.  She is also horribly mean to Anne.

Anne means little to her father or Elizabeth as we are told in Chapter One: “but Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way – she was only Anne.” (Chapter 1)

However Anne is a wise character and is able to keep her head when all those around her are being silly.  Frederick Wentworth returns from the Navy, and when he and Anne meet again, we are into classic Austen territory.

I won’t tell you anymore of the story.  Suffice to say, it is a romantic tale with morals galore and witty observations on both human nature and society.

With Austen, you know what you are going to get, and while some readers don’t enjoy that, I find that immensely comforting.  She is a genius at writing flawed characters who are completely oblivious to their flaws.  Her hero and heroine are always empathetic and have to go through the same fears and doubts that I am sure we have all faced at one time or another.   There is always the ‘wicked’ man who tries to steal the fair lady’s heart, but is inevitably found out before all is lost. I don’t mean to sound trite, because though Austen may write of universal themes, she does so with an originality and a timelessness that has made her one of the most loved authors of all time.  Having read Persuasion, I now want to re-read Sense and Sensibility and the other Austen novel I have not yet read – Northanger Abbey.  If you have read Austen, which is your favourite?  If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

 

 

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Books and Podcasts

I have been a little quiet of late.  I have been rather busy what with one project and another.   However I have continued to read non-stop.  I am reading Persuasion for my March Reading Gym.   However I also read books that are meant to be helping me in the writing of my own novel.  So I have recently read ‘I Capture The Castle’ by Dodi Smith and ‘The Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Remains of the Day

Now if you haven’t read either of these novels, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to read them immediately.  Go on.  They are WONDERFUL.  You won’t regret it for  a second.  I had actually read ‘I capture the Castle’ before, but for some reason didn’t get as enamoured of it as I was this time.  It begins with the brilliant line, ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.’  It tells the story of Cassandra, her sister Rose, their step mother and father, who all live in a castle in Suffolk.  The castle has seen better days and their eccentric father once wrote a brilliant book, but has not been able to write anything since.  Their lives change when two American men enter their lives – they are the rightful heirs to the castle.  The story is told from the point of view of Cassandra who is 17 and writes the story as she tells it to us, in her journal.  It is funny, charming and the voice of Cassandra is one of literature’s most endearing creations.

The Remains of the Day is also brilliant.  I had seen the film with the incredible Anthony Hopkins, but the book is a masterpiece.  The manner in which Mr Stevens the butler so deludes himself not just about his importance in the world, but worse, his sense of propriety in all things, means he never really lives at all.  Oh I could gush, I could and I will.  It is a brilliant, subtle, intriguing piece of writing which deservedly won The Man Booker Prize.  It goes straight into my Top Ten favourite books ever.  It’s a book for the procrastinators of this world, or for those who have let opportunities slip through their fingers for fear of being seen as improper.   Wonderful.

Finally, I thought I would share my latest blog piece that I wrote for Cuckoo Magazine.  It’s all about book podcasts and I hope you enjoy.   The link is below.  I will return ere long with my review on Persuasion by Jane Austen.

For the Love of Podcasts