"She Was Only Anne"

I am not a book reviewer, and this blog is not a review blog. I adore book review blogs. I just don’t review very well. I have a hard time being objective, and looking at something as either well-done or poorly-done, instead of “I liked this” or “this irritated the heck out of me.”

However. I am re-reading Persuasion for, I don’t know, the seventh time? Tenth? I don’t keep track of how often I read books, honestly. I know I started reading Austen back in my college days, and have re-read her books many times since. Sense and Sensibility is my least favorite – I would venture so far as to say I rather dislike it, mostly because all the characters are in good need of a Gibbs-head-slap – and my favorite keeps changing throughout the years. Right now, and for a few years, it is Persuasion, followed closely by Emma.

I think Anne Elliot is the best of all Austen’s heroines. More depth to her character than Lizzy Bennet, more spirit than Fanny Price, more clarity of vision than Emma Woodhouse, more common sense than Cathy Morland, and more understanding and wisdom than the Dashwood sisters. I love, as I approach my thirtieth year, that she is an older heroine, and one who blossomed later in life instead of early. I love how she shows that gentleness does not equal weakness, just as Louisa Musgrove proves that spiritedness does not equal strength of character.

Captain Wentworth is, I think, a bit of a jerk. He’s held a grudge against Anne for years, is deliberately rude to her, and flirts with the Musgrove girls without a care for how he might be affecting them. Yet, he is no Darcy, because we get to see him improve slowly throughout the book – not just changing after he is confronted with his faults, because he wants to be worthy of his love (I really hate the message that sends – that if you love somebody enough, you can change their character flaws. IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY OUTSIDE THE MOVIE AND BOOK WORLD). He sees his flaws for himself, recognizes where he has been unjust and acted wrongly, and then moves decisively to correct himself.

And I think that’s one reason why Anne and Captain Wentworth are such a good match – they loved each other as youth, were separated and grew up apart from each other, each developing into their own person, and then came back together as fully realized adults, each offering something special to the other, to help make the other complete.

Persuasion is great not just for the MCs, though. The supporting characters are all brilliantly drawn too – Mary Musgrove cracks me up with every re-reading; Admiral and Mrs Croft are delightful; Mr Elliot and Mrs Clay are just the right sort of villains – not too obvious.

Then there is the scenery, and the overall feel of the book. I almost always read Persuasion in the autumn or winter months. It is that sort of book; it feels wrong to read it when it is light and sunny out. With only a few words Austen gives us a clear picture of Kellynch, of Lyme (oh how I want to visit there someday!), and of Bath. Bath comes through even clearer in Persuasion, I think, than in Northanger Abbey.

It shows the mark of being written by an older, experienced author. The pace is calmer, the humor subtler, the tone quieter and deeper than the others. It is, I think, Jane Austen’s masterpiece, and I think it a true pity that it is so often overshadowed by the brighter but shallower Pride and Prejudice.

Next up on my fall/winter reading list: Shakespeare and Elizabeth Gaskell! What are you planning on reading this month?

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14 thoughts on “"She Was Only Anne"

  1. Persuasion is by far my favorite JA book–and perfect autumn reading. I agree with you about the maturity of the writing, etc. The other thing that strikes me so much in this book is the theme of redemption, and how JA subtly layers this throughout the book and in the many characters and their growth.

  2. Capt. Wentworth DOES act a bit of a jerk, but he was deeply hurt by Anne when she was young hadn't developed her own strong character yet; he assumes she is that same person when he meets her again, so naturally the deep hurt he felt re-surfaces. So I guess I've always felt he was a jerk with a (worldly) just cause. I first read Persuasion in my early teens, and Anne really became a literary role-model for me. I admired the calm strength, the 'elegance of mind', and actually made an effort to be more like her (strangely sad in a way, to want to be alike a fictional character to that extent), and no other Austen heroine had that effect on me. Right now I'm reading "Ruth" by Elizabeth Gaskell, and I have a feeling it's going to be a harder read than any of the other Gaskell books I've read, because of the brutal realism of the story. Gaskell was brave to write about un-wed motherhood, I'm looking forward to how exactly she deals with it.

  3. For some odd reason, I thought Captain Wentworth was in Sense And Sensibility. Oh well.I still need to read Persuasion, but it sounds SOOOOOO good, then again, it's Jane Austen so it HAS to be good!

  4. I think that I love P&P and Persuasion both almost equally. There is more maturity and depth to Persuasion though. I was maybe 21 when I read it the first time, and felt sorry that she was so old! Now I would love to know what 27 still felt like!BTW, don't you think it's interesting that 27 is a recurring age in Austen's work? Charlotte Lucas was also 27. That seems to be a favorite "old maid" age for her. Just a thought…All in all, I love that "Anne was tenderness itself…"

  5. OOOOO Persuasion! My favorite romance novel! When I first read it, my first month of college, I was getting over but not QUITE over a guy I'd adored all through high school, and I think part of me really latched on to the idea of us meeting again someday when all the stupid mistakes and misunderstandings from the first time around would be put behind us, la dee da dee da. So it knocked me out! Today it's still my go-to read for when I'm actually in the mood for a passionate romance (as opposed to a romantic comedy, which is normally the only kind of romance I prefer, although anything Austen does can't go COMPLETELY without the comedy. This is just a less-comedic book than most of her others, except Mansfield Park). :P for your opinion on S&S though. ;)

  6. Kirsten – Thanks! Always nice to find another Persuasion fan.Connie – Ooh, I hadn't even thought of the redemption angle. But you're right, it does weave throughout, and even gives some examples of false redemption, as with Mr Elliot.Valerie – Maybe he does have cause, but I still think he carries a grudge too far. But at least he admits that in the end! His letter to Anne is definitely swoon-worthy, as is his acknowledgement of the long separation being solely a result of his own injured pride.April – Sense & Sensibility has Colonel Brandon and Willoughby. Austen did like to reuse those "W" names, didn't she? Willoughby, Wickham, Wentworth … any I've forgotten? If you do give Persuasion a go, let me know if you like it!Adrienne – I would, honestly, probably like P&P more if it weren't so tremendously popular, but it frustrates me no end that so many people ignore the deeper books in favor of it, and so that turns me against it. Well, that and the fact that I really do think Darcy is boring. Personal opinion only, though! I do recognize the love between him and Lizzy as Epic.Rockinlibrarian – Hm, I suppose there are elements in Persuasion that could give birth to unrealistic expectations, just as there are in P&P and the others. The curse of all great love stories, I suppose! And I do love the touches of comedy that keep it from getting too pompous.Elle – Let me know what you think of it if/when you do read it!

  7. Hello! New reader from Jen Daiker's blog. I was intrigued by what you posted regarding researching 1920s British legal system! :) Glad to find your post here. Went into a HUGE (lamentable) Austen fan-fiction phase this summer. Some books I found were fantastic (A Gentleman of Fortune) and some were horrid (The Dashwood Sisters). :) Have you dipped into any of those? I guess, truly, nothing compares to Jane's works. But I confess I've never read Persuasion. That should be my next book!

  8. I love love love Persuasion, as you know. I hold it in slightly higher esteem than P&P, not because I dislike Darcy in any way, or even because the themes are less deep and more exuberant. I just love the restraint in the writing and in the main characters, and how well Austen shows their brokenness. Anne is a role model for me, being quite unlike me in any way and therefore a good remedy against my inclinations. Anne's dialogue and Wentworth's letter at the end always slay me. I think it's one of the best endings a book could have, and much better an ending than most of her other books. (Post-scripts were not her strong suit.)

  9. Jessica – I'm so glad to "meet" you! I must confess to reading some JA fanfic, and even trying my hand at a piece or two. Her style is so hard for me to imitate, though; I quit trying after a short while.Monday – Yes, the restraint in the writing is definitely one of its strengths. And I see some similarities between you and Anne, at least in how you both like to observe yourself and those around you, seeing everyone in a clear-sighted way.

  10. I love Persuasion simply because of Captain Wentworth's letter. Most of the time, in Austen's works, it is seems like the heroine feels love more deeply than the hero, or that the love itself is very cordial, not impassioned. But in Persuasion, it's Captain Wentworth who makes the declaration, and it is SO passionate. I love Captain Wentworth for his vulnerability that he reveals in his letter. It makes me tear up every time.

  11. Monday – my pleasure, friend!Cath – ooh, another good point. Captain Wentworth's passion is a beautiful thing, especially coming from an era when men were expected to be restrained and reserved (at least when it came to women). And that his passion helped the more reserved Anne to feel more confident in her own passion is also beautiful.

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