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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Persuasion by Jane Austen (Classics Club)

I definitely enjoyed reading Persuasion and I would heartily recommend it to others. I find that each Austen novel must be appreciated on its own terms, which makes comparisons wearisome, and yes, odious.

I found it a more somber novel than those I count as my favorite Austen works, among them Northanger Abbey (Austen's satire of the gothic genre had me laughing all the way through), Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. (Thus far I have not read Emma or Mansfield Park.)

The tone was somber and reflective, as in the portrayal of the behavior and character of Anne Elliott, who is neither the favorite daughter nor the married daughter. By her family, she is considered merely an indispensable aide when any one of them require her assistance. No one ever considers her feelings, or even realizes that Anne may have feelings, desires, or dreams of her own. This point is certainly the "autobiographical" aspect that Austen critics and biographers refer to. Even when Jane Austen, toward the end of her life, was feeling sick and asking for respite from the visits of her nieces and nephews and other relations, she really had to hammer the point home. After all, they pondered, "Jane? Sick? She can't really be too sick to help out, can she?" Austen wrote about this very fact, but as an unmarried woman in the family, she had expectations to fulfill that superseded her own needs.

Back to Anne Elliott, to her family and friends, she seems settled in this role of fifth wheel. Each member of her family disregards her at times and, when she is needed, desperately desire her attentions, for which she is not thanked or valued.

As a reader I felt sympathy toward Anne rather than compassion. She never put up a fuss when her family or others were using her. This created tension in me, the reader, as I expect Austen intended. But eventually, and rather serendipitously, Anne finally does reconnect with her true love, a man she was "persuaded" to give up eight and a half years previously. A man who will respect, value, and love her. And so happily, the novel draws to a close.

If you have thoughts about this review of any sort, please do comment. I value your thoughts!

P.S. I also have finished Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and am zooming through a wonderful novel about the young Queen Victoria, entitled Victoria by Daisy Goodwin. Can I finish this 400-page novel by 12 midnight New Year's Eve? I do hope.

8 comments:

  1. Judith - It has been many years since I read Persuasion and I was probably too young to appreciate it fully at the time. Your post makes me want to reread, I'm sure I would get more out of it now.

    On your recommendation, I read Elin Hilderbrand's Winter trilogy over the past week. I'd been unable to focus on much, but it was exactly what I needed. Didn't like the end of the 3rd book... felt like I needed more before leaving the Quinn family. Have since learned that there will be a fourth book coming in October 2017. (Thought I'd commented on some previous posts, but don't see them here. Fingers crossed this one comes through.)

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    1. I completely agree with you about the ending of the third book. In fact, I felt that way so strongly that I even considered writing to her editors, in the hopes that they would allow her to continue the series.

      And I'm so glad that you reported that there is to be a 4th book. So necessary, I think, and that news has made me so idiotically happy. I really love the Quinn Family.

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  2. I've read and enjoyed all of Jave Austen's books and a biography as well as her letters, but I haven't read anything of hers for years. Let me know when you want to read Emma or Mansfield Park and I'll join in with you.

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    1. Katrina,
      A wonderful idea--a joint read of Emma or Mansfield Park. I know I want to read one of them this year.

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  3. I need to get back to classics in 2017.

    Wishing you and yours Peace, joy and good health in 2017 Judith.

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    1. Diane,
      I know what you mean by the need to get back to classics. I've enjoyed my mission so far, which I started in September 2015. And I've decided I won't worry about being a bit behind in that 50 books-5 years Plan.
      And I wish the same to you and your family in 2017.

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  4. I've never thought of Persuasion as being autobiographical, but you make a good point. I always think of Austen in her prime--wickedly witty, loving to dance and tease, strong willed, and engaging, but not sickly, though, of course, she was while writing Persuasion. It's one of my favorite Austen novels and the elegiac tone is so soothing, I find. Interesting review--thanks!

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    1. Jane,
      It's a wonder that Jane Austen had the strength of character and the sense of mission for her writing that she was able to supersede her undoubtedly difficult feelings of ill health. She must have had an incredibly strong will.

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