I’ve been a fan of Jane Austen TV and film adaptations for years but Persuasion is the first book of hers I’ve actually read.
It concerns Anne Elliot the daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, who at the age of 19/20 was persuaded to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth given his lack of wealth and status relative to her own. Now, eight years later, Captain Wentworth, rich and respectable enters her life again, but does he still feel the same way about Anne? And if he does will they able to be together or will events and other people conspire to keep them apart?
I think you can guess the answer.
Since I started 25 Books I’ve intended to read an Austen novel and I had chosen Persuasion because it was one of two where I did not know the story already. The other Northanger Abbey, is I understand, very different to her other books and so I thought I’d leave that until later. I have a feeling that Persuasion is not considered amongst the best Austen, so I don’t know how much of my reaction to it is from that or other factors.
My reaction being that it was very enjoyable but not up there with my experience of the TV/film versions of Pride & Prejudice , Sense & Sensibility or Emma. Part of that I’m sure is the language, which is archaic enough for me to have to work at it. I’m sure my pages/hour stat has taken a hit during this book. Certainly there were several times when I had to re-read sections, particularly great long convoluted sentences with several semi-colons. However it improved towards the end. Partly I got more proficient at on-the-fly-in-my-head-translation-into-modern-English and partly there was more dialogue which tended to be more straightforward anyway.
The story was full of what I consider Austen standard fare – a good-hearted sensible slightly put-upon sister with pompous and/or silly relatives, apparently honourable men who turn out not to be so, apparently cold or indifferent men who turn out to be far from it, misunderstandings about who may or may not “be attached to” (which either means fancy or be engaged to depending on context) whom, various secrets and of course the happiness of being suitably married – which equates to respectability and financial stability.
I think the plot works well in introducing all the various misdirections and obstacles to Anne and Wentworth’s romance. It certainly seems to all shift into gear significantly in the final third of the book. There does seem to be more of an inevitability to their eventually re-uniting than I would have expected. In that sense it’s less of a dramatic reversal of fortunes as in P&P and S&S – but maybe that’s just the way those were edited by various modern writers/producers. Overall though it works – the good end happily and that’s how it should be!
8/10 – a good (very) old-fashioned rom-com.