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?