Sunday, July 01, 2012

"Persuasion" by Jane Austen

The first time I read Persuasion, I liked it better than the other three Austen books I'd read at that time.  That was more than a decade ago, and this is the first time I've reread it.  The question I now face is:  why did I like it better than Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma?  It could be because I first read Persuasion while I was on my big Horatio Hornblower kick, and this book is full of naval officers.  It could be because this was the first Austen book I read after going to college, and I was just more ready for this level of writing.  It could even be because it's considerably shorter than the other three I'd read.

I think, in the end, that the reason I liked it best is that I identify more with this book's heroine, Anne Elliot, more than any of the other's.  I'm not as witty or bold as Elizabeth Bennett.  I'm not as unfailingly honorable as Elinor Dashwood (though I do see a lot of myself in her as well).  I'm not as inquisitive or self-fascinated (I hope) as Emma Woodhouse.  Like Anne Elliot, in my opinion, I am quiet, reserved, and loyal.  And that's probably why I still like this book a great deal, though now I think I like Pride and Prejudice equally as well.

In case you're not up on your Austen, this is the one where Anne Elliott meets up with the man she was once engaged to, Captain Frederick Wentworth.  Eight years previous, she had been persuaded to break off their engagement, and had regretted that ever since.  Neither of them had ever fallen in love again, and this book charts the rekindling of their romance as they slowly ascertain each others' feelings and whether things could ever again be as they once were.

I do wish that this book lasted a little longer, as the very end seems a bit rushed.  The discussion between Capt. Wentworth and Anne is described, not written out as dialog, and I've always wondered if Jane Austen meant to flesh that part out more, but then was unable to.  Persuasion was published posthumously, so you never know.

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