BOOK REVIEW (41): Persuasion


So with the romantic Christmas reading challenge out of the way, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself…so I decided to read. Squeeze in one more book for 2014 before I called it a wrap—
That lucky book is Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I read one of her books earlier this year (Sense and Sensibility) and this one is another of her books that I watched a film version of before actually reading it.
It’s a pattern, really, between JA and I. I watch film adaptations and then get so inflamed I have to read the book. See what’s different between the two and all.
But I don’t really remember the movie as I watched it many, many years ago (at least something like 3-4 years ago). Save for knowing that the protagonist, Anne Elliot (doesn’t that have a lovely ring to it?) gets her HEA. The rest is a blur pretty much so I wasn’t influenced by the film so much.
What’s the deal with Persuasion? Why is it called that anyways?
I’ll tell you.
Persuasion follows 27-year-old Anne Elliot, the second eldest daughter of some fool, prissy/dandy baron and her trials with a father and older sister and younger sister who are all but useless. She’s unmarried, but she’s got a spinster-companion in her older sister. She’s not beautiful, but she’s perceptive and kind-hearted and wife/mother-material. If we were in the Victorian era, Anne Elliot would be the perfect Victorian house angel.
Though plain, Anne was once super beautiful and she had a marriage offer. Unlike the unlucky majority, she actually found a great guy when she was 19 and had been planning to marry him, but her stuck-up family thought Captain Frederick Wentworth as “a young man, who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining influence”…so to sum it up: he’s broke and nameless and will probably always be broke and nameless.
So Anne is persuadedfrom the union. (Get it? :D)
Fast forward eight years later and Anne bumps in Captain Wentworth—a successful naval officer now with his share of great wealth—and it’s like eight years of spinsterhood hadn’t occurred. Neither of them are married (or have been married) and it’s just the perfect atmosphere for a reunion romance.
And because we’re reading JA we know we’re going to get A LOT of drama. I like drama. This has great drama—not too little, not too much. I also liked Anne because not every friggin’ guy was fawning over. I think that’s why I’m all for JA—usually her books don’t have 2+ guys vying over the heroine. If there is a love triangle, it’s more an illusion because one half of the love interests actually don’t care diddly-squat for the heroine and they want some material wealth she owns or has access to. (Which is the case here…)
I liked Anne, too. For the most part, although she reminded me of Anne Bronte’s heroines—like them, Anne Elliot is sorta preachy. Not as preachy as Bronte’s Agnes Grey, for instance, but she’s up there. The novel had footnotes that explained that JA happened to be going through a religious revival or something around the time she was writing this story in 1816, so her ideas clearly leaked into the novel through Anne and her internal monologues. Overall, Anne Elliot was not as bad as the sister-duo from Sense and Sensibility (those two were annoying).
I also liked our hero, Cpt. Frederick Wentworth. He was most certainly NOT a Mr. Darcy, but although he wasn’t an alpha, he had his share of broodiness. There wasn’t too much conversation between him and Anne really, save for after he confesses his feelings for her and whatnot (umm…spoiler?). He’s a good guy. More beta than alpha that’s for sure, but every time he made an appearance I perked up and started reading faster, feeling too much like anxious Anne whenever he was around.
It’s a fairy tale. Anne Elliot is super abused…she’s neglected emotionally and mentally, even if she has everything she wants physically. She’s well off compared to most of the heroines JA writes about (the Bennett sisters anyone? Fanny?), but it’s kinda sad to see her interactions—or lack thereof—with her family. What this girl really needs by the end of it is a HEA (“one HEA please!”) and I’m all the happy she got her just reward for tempering such a silly bunch of blood-related dummies.
All in all Persuasionis almost a moralistic tale, one that applies to the social world and I genuinely believe is more of a universal message (since we don’t really interact in early 2000s like they did in the early 1800s): don’t allow yourself to be persuaded from something you want to do (as long as it isn’t anything harmful to you or anyone else).
A lot of people are held back by the people they love from things they want to do. As an example my family is HELLA supportive of my writing endeavours, but I bring up travelling with my parents and they’ll flip out (“How can you travel alone? What if someone hurts you?” and on and on)…
So take advice as just that, advice. Make sure that you don’t run along with something unless you’ve weighed it with your own feelings and happiness.
And now that I’ve gotten off track, let me return to the review and explain why I don’t give this a full 5 stars.
I didn’t like Anne’s do-goodness…I thought it was over-the-top sometimes. Maybe because I was stuck in her head and I thought it would be pretty cool if the story was told from some other character’s perspective. I mean JA writes her tales as limited third person, though she sometimes peeks into the mind of even minor character, she tends to stick fast with the heroine and generally completely avoids the hero while the wooing occurs.
The book also came to a sudden end. The version I have (Everyman publisher) included an alternative chapter that was replaced by the third and second last chapters (respectively Chapters 22 and 23 were not the originals out of the 24-chapter story). Yet this felt like the shortest of her reads…and in a way it was unsatisfying. I don’t care to read short books. As long as I felt like things are paced nicely—I don’t know what I expected. More teasing, more wooing, more conflict…compared to Sense and Sensibility there wasn’t as much twists and turns.
They meet, they are forced together in awkward social situations, they confess their love, and they get married. The end.
It wasn’t satisfying…lo my rating.
Still I recommend you read Persuasion. It’s not as bas as Sense and Sensibility (and that book wasn’t even that bad!)—give Anne + Cpt. Wentworth a chance. Who knows? It might be a perfect read for you.
My verdict:


(4 stars)

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