Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

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4 out of 5 Swayable Stars

GOD I LOVED THIS BOOK.  I always forget how much I love this book. Again, I’m not going to do a really thorough “review”, I’m not going to stay away from spoilers, I’m just gonna ramble about how much I love Jane Austen. There are so many reviews out there written by people who are more knowledgeable than I.  Even if you know every moment of what happens in this book, it is worth the read for the feelings this book makes you feel. I never give it enough props. The angst and drama in this book is sheer perfection. It’s not at all cheesy. There is so much pathos…

Let me sum up. Our heroine is Anne Elliot, middle daughter of a very vain, arrogant Baronet in financial trouble. She also has a vain, arrogant older sister, Elizabeth and a silly, arrogant younger sister , Mary, who is married. Anne is 27 and considered an old maid. Even worse in her society, she is a disappointed 27. She fell in love with a sailor when she was younger, but due to her families disapprobation and her family friend, Lady Russell, she broke off the relationship. He didn’t have any money, it was wartime, and though sailors can rise in the ranks and win prizes during war, they can also die. Also, he had “no name” to satisfy her father – he is a “nobody” when compared to the Elliots.

Now that her family is financially embarrassed, they have to rent out their glorious estate and move off to Bath to live more economically. And who should they rent it out to but Anne’s former lover’s sister and her Admiral husband. This will bring the now Captain Wenthworth back into her sphere for the first time in 8 years. Also, he is now rich AF, having proved himself in the war.

So we have all kinds of drama. Anne’s nervous to see him again. She doesn’t know how she feels. She knows that breaking it off was a mistake, but she doesn’t blame the people who swayed her. So think about it… she knows that Wentworth didn’t tell anyone about their relationship, as at this time, people kept their feelings on the downlow. Her younger sister was in school. Her elder sister and father are too vain to admit she was involved with a nobody (plus, they are off in Bath while she is nursing the hypochondriac Mary). So he comes back to the neighborhood amongst her friends, she has to see him, in all his handsome glorious richness and no one knows what was between them, except her friend Lady Russell, who is off traveling anyway. Anne goes to stay with her younger sister Mary and her husband near his family, where everyone is kind, there are young cousins about, everything is playful and happy, and here is the man she is still kind of in love with, and he hardly acknowledges her. He is there, flirting and getting to know these lovely young cousins and impressing everyone with his handsome richness. It’s not just that he’s rich – he’s so vibrant, healthy (remember, everyone had consumption back then! pale wanness was a serious problem in eligible men), well-mannered and impressive. Everyone starts to talk about which of the young girls he’s after. He himself says he’s looking for a wife, and wants one with a strong character, clearly alluding to her abandonment.

The pathos. Oh the pathos. Your heart bleeds for Anne. She plays the piano, not to please and express herself, but because no one wants her in the dancing. When it’s time to enjoy music, the young ladies will play and be complimented, but when there is dancing, of course Anne will play so they can dance. Anne is told by her older sister that she is wanted by the younger sister, who claims to be ill again, because Anne isn’t wanted in Bath. No one asks Anne what she wants, she is told where she will go. Instead, Mrs. Clay, a poor, widowed young woman with designs on marrying their father, is brought to Bath to be the families companion. No one wants Anne.

But Anne is so sweet and so kind. She accepts Wentworth’s cold civility as her due, but she can’t help but have feelings and pangs at seeing him move among these people and having to hold back and be no one to him. She’s in pain almost all the time she is around him, until she grows used to his presence. Then there is a trip to Lyme, a tragic injury to one of the young ladies, and Wentworth is involved. Anne is a pillar of strength and turns into a little general, telling everyone what should be done. Even then, her stupid sister Mary insists she should be the one to nurse the girl, that she is the sister-in-law, what is Anne to anyone?

Sigh.

Mary is about as useful as an extra asshole on an elbow. But Wentworth sees Anne’s value and his cold reserve, his resentment, begin to melt. He finally realizes he has made mistakes, too. You don’t think this is going to ever resolve. You fear all is lost a few times. There is also a designing relative sniffing at the Elliot trail. The relative due to inherit the baronetcy when Sir Elliot dies (having no sons) is trying to get in the good graces of the family.

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In this, we get a treat that Jane Austen is famous for. She manages to make a man charming, everything he should be on the surface, and yet with the blackened heart of a villain!! It was so much easier back then to appear to be all that you should – manners were so formal, people never let their hair down, so you really don’t know someone’s real personality. And he had reason to hide every bit of who he really was. Austen teaches us: don’t trust anyone who is too charming. 🙂

My favorite Austen is Northanger Abbey, then Pride and Prejudice. Then it gets murky. I think Persuasion has moved ahead of Sense and Sensibility – every time I read that one, I find one sister I dislike more. Emma is a snob and I find a lot of the ending disappointing, but I still really enjoy the story, which I think remains in front of Mansfield Park – which is only in the last place because I don’t really like any of the characters. I don’t hate Fanny, I find her very sympathetic, but there isn’t anyone else in that story I really like.

I’m so glad I reread this, and found it even better than I remember. I’m looking forward to the rest… I almost wish it was October already so I could read the next one.

I am doing this because of the Austentatious Goodreads Group started by Read by Zoe on YouTube – or @zoeherdt on Twitter, that will be re-reading all the Austen books. Pride and Prejudice was the first one in August. Here is a video by Zoe about it.

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