Thursday, July 15, 2010

Jane in June/July: Persuasion by Jane Austen

This post is part of Jane in June (and now July) hosted by The Book Rat.
This novel completes part of the requirements for the Jane Austen Reading Challenge.

Anne Elliot is older and wiser, living with the consequences of succumbing to the influence of Lady Russell, an old family friend, and giving up the man she loved eight years ago. It's easier for Anne to forget the past while isolated with her vain father and proud sister in the seclusion of Kellynch Hall, but when debts make it necessary for the family to relocate, Anne finds herself once again thrown into company with the newly prosperous Captain Wentworth. Much to Anne's chagrin, she finds herself not quite immune to the sensations of the past, but she seems to be alone in her renewed sentiments. Wentworth's distant behavior towards her is only thrown into sharper relief by his increasing intimacy with Anne's friends, Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove. However, the caprice of a moment leads to tragedy and soon reveals that nothing is quite what it seems. The aftermath presents Anne and Wentworth with opportunities they never thought they'd see again, and the only question that remains is whether the former lovers will be able to overcome their own injured hearts and the relentless stream of misunderstandings that seem destined to keep them apart.

Persuasion is Jane Austen's most mature novel, a tale of disappointed love, enduring hopes and second chances. Written late in Austen's life, as she was falling ill with the disease that would ultimately kill her, Persuasion is a darker, more subdued tome than the cheery brightness and sparkling wit of previous favorites like Pride and Prejudice. Anne is a lovable heroine, full of wise caution and gentleness that is highlighted as a virtue in contrast to the ignorance and selfishness of her family. Unlike many Austen heroines, Anne Elliot knows her own mind, and as a result readers are given much more insight into her thoughts and feelings, making it easy to sympathize with her pitiable plight. Despite his initial aloofness, Wentworth is a charming hero whose clearly wounded heart makes him all the more endearing. It's impossible not to love the big-hearted sea captain, especially as suspense begins to wreak its toll on his emotions. The tense guessing game between him and Anne could become tiresome and juvenile under a less skilled pen, but Austen does it in such a way that the evolving sentiments and slowly revealed secrets are tantalizing for the reader, while the characters' feelings and motivations are so complex that they remain engaging without becoming trite and superficial. There is much less of the biting sarcasm and dry irony that is Austen's trademark in this final novel, but Persuasion still contains that insightful social critique which makes Austen's tales so much more than traditional love stories. The groveling aspirations of the pompous Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot (poor Anne's closest family), and the comparative warmth and camaraderie of the omnipresent naval officers is a clear commentary which deftly evokes the reader's highest respect for the band of brothers who were defending the country at the time. The portrait of family Austen draws amongst the officers holds a reassuring promise that the beloved heroine will finally find well-deserved happiness after a youth of lonely insignificance at the hands of her closest relations.

Premise: 4.5/5
Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Overall: 4.6/5

Don't miss my other Jane in June reviews of Northanger Abbey, Emma, and Pride and Prejudice!

Today is the LAST DAY to enter the Jane in June Giveaway for a chance to win one of three Jane Austen classics - Northanger Abbey, Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice!


DJ's Life in Fiction said...

This was the first Jane Austen novel I read and I absolutely loved it! I also love the new BBC adaptation. :-)

skyla11377 said...

I loved Anne's story I just wish she had more of a backbone when it came to Lady Russell and what she truly wanted and not what Lady Russell thought she needed. But over all I really loved this story.

VABookworm87 said...

I love Captain Wentworth :oD This is one of my favorite Austen novels. I loved the latest BBC adaptation as well, although I had to get used to Rupert Penry-Jones in the role... every time I see him all I can think of is Adam Carter in Spooks lol

bookishbarney said...

I think this was my favourite Austen novel so far... I just couldn't put it down, so painful watching Anne and Captain Wentworth circling each other... (Oh, and Rupert P-J looked so darn good in britches!)

Misty said...

I adore this novel. It's so bittersweet it makes me sad sometimes, but it's a definite comfort book, and I love me some Capt. Wentworth (just going to go ahead and second that Penry-Jones comment ^ -- if you haven't seen that version, you simply must. He is Mmmmmm)

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