Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Persuasion - Jane Austen

"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."

Anne Elliot has been a pushover her entire life. Her family uses this to their advantage and her detriment. Her father, Sir Walter loves looking at himself in the mirror and spends money like water. Her sister, Elizabeth follows in his footsteps, ever concerned about social standing. Lady Russell, a close family friend, stands in for her deceased mother; eight years ago she advised Anne to break off the match between herself and a young naval officer, Frederick Wenstworth as he would have no means of supporting her due to his reduced circumstances. Against her own wishes Anne followed Lady Russell's advice and has regretted it ever since, especially considering she still has feelings for Frederick.

One of the best parts about this book are the characters. I loved Sir Walter because he's such a slimeball. I was amused every time he opened his mouth. If you doubt the humour of his person, read on. "Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot's character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a baronetcy; and the Sir Walter Elliott, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion."

As well, I liked seeing into Anne's thoughts, comparing them to her dialogue. The readers see she's a caring individual, not playing at consideration like her father. Everyone takes advantage of her kindness for their own ends though, leaving her vulnerable.

I did want more developement in terms of a subplot. Usually with other Austen novels there are subplots that have their own set of problems and resolutions. These seemed pushed aside, only mentioned in passing in "Persuasion". While Anne's story is more than enough to keep the reader's interest, it would have been nice to flesh out a few more stories about the characters we meet. Also, Austen's writing is engaging and elegant but at times requires a second readthrough to capture all the little nuances.

Overall I wish I hadn't waited so long to read this book. While "Pride & Prejudice" may be considered the best known Austen novel, I enjoyed "Persuasion" far more.

Rating: 5/5

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