I don’t know how I let myself go so long without re-reading Persuasion, I forgot how much I loved it. I think I last read it in 2008/2009 so almost six years ago! It makes me even happier we’re doing Jane Austen Book Club this year and we chose this as our third installment.
It is difficult to say whether I preferred the unrequited/long-lost love of this story or Austen’s caustic wit more. The story of course revolves around Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, who were in love and were almost engaged, but do to external factors (rude ass relatives and friends) it wasn’t to be. They meet again eight years later and the story picks up from there, so of course, SWOON. And in competition here were so many great one-liners and zingers (none of which I wrote down) about the aristocracy and the landed gentry that I couldn’t help but be torn between laughing and holding my breath! If I were forced to chose…nope, can’t do it.
As I said above, I can’t believe I haven’t read this in so long, it is Austen’s last work completed work before she died and it shows where her mind turned: past love and sicknesses. Was she regretting turning down Harris Bigg-Wither or some other suitor, or had she just realized that romantic love like in her novels existed and that it took a lot more time than expected? And was she tired of the faux-sickness and airs of the aristocracy/landed gentry?
As much as I love the battle of the wits between Darcy and Elizabeth, the strained love of Anne and Wentworth is so much more satisfying! It’s only eight years, but think about where you were eight years ago, it’s a long ass time right? Especially between 19 and 27 where you mature and experience so much of the world. To remain constant, even after your most valued friend and all your family urge against it, that says something right? There was something so charming in how hesitant Anne and Wentworth were when becoming re-acquainted and the letter of declaration! I almost had to get out of bed to go squeal in another room so as not to wake up my boyfriend. (Ugh, I’m such a hopeless romantic sometimes.)
And then, in so much stark contrast her thoughts on the nobility and gentry. Not only does she make Sir Elliot and Elizabeth Elliot into bumbling buffoons, but she only provides caricatures of their more noble relatives. Austen, through sickness taken to ridiculous extremes makes Mary Elliott Musgrove an absolute fool for fainting, sore throats and separation anxiety from her husband, but not her children. And in contrast those of the “lower” strata are battling noble sicknesses and love their children even if there isn’t a lot of space in their homes. It’s interesting to note, that Austen takes this to even further extremes in her last unfinished novel, Sandition, in which her commentary about faux-sickness is even more biting!
I once again enjoyed the insults in this novel, most often between siblings like,
“He had, in fact, though his sisters were now doing all they could for him, by calling him ‘poor Richard,’ been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove, who had never done anything to entitle himself to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead.” (71)
But there were also attacks on freckles by Sir Elliot and Elizabeth, and on young men all around. One of the best quotes I forgot to write down had something to do with curiosity and it being uncouth!
Recommendation: Do I really need to say it again!? READ IT! As one of her shortest novels it’s a quick read. It shows her maturing as a writer and the story is just so wonderfully simple and elegant that you can’t help but love it.
Opening Line: “Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, neer took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs, changed naturally into pity and contempt.”
Closing Line: “She gloried in being a sailor’s wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance.” (Whited out, highlight to read.)