A remark I have been heard to utter on several occasions; in fact there is a whole post devoted to the topic on this blog. However after recently reading two books that I really enjoyed I decided it was time for me to delve into that world again and picked up a copy of Persuasion, number 38 on The List.
When Persuasion first arrived in my hands (fresh from Amazon) two things immediately concerned me:
- It seemed I had PAID for a copy of the book that originally came free from The Daily Express (an English tabloid newspaper) to advertise the release of Becoming Jane in 2007.
- The book itself seemed very short which made me worry that I had accidentally purchased an abridged version and was going to be unable to count it as fully read. However a quick Google search assured me that this was in fact a story much shorter than most of Austen’s work due to the fact that she became ill while writing it and died shortly after its completion.
Reassured on one front and unable to do anything about the other I resolved to try to put my usual cynicism to one side and give Persuasion a fair go.
In essence the story is very similar to that of Emma (my only previous Austen experience) in that it features a bunch of ladies sitting around waiting to see who’ll marry them and going on various excursions with their possible suitors and families.
However, I found the heroine of Persuasion, one Anne Elliot, much more likeable and sympathetic than the titular Emma. At the age of 19 Anne was persuaded against marrying a young sailor Frederick Wentworth and has remained single ever since. Now, six and a half years later, he has returned having made both his fortune and the title of Captain at war. Is it too late for him to win Anne’s heart? Has it been claimed by her cousin (and heir to her family’s estate)? And how will all the other people in this scenario marry? The two sisters-in-law of Anne’s younger sister Mary, the recently bereaved Captain Benwick and Anne’s older sister’s friend Mrs Clay who appears to have design on their father.
Anne’s family are universally unlikeable; her father is a ridiculously vain baronet who likes nothing more than to read the details of his family and his fortune and thinks nothing of his middle daughter. Her older sister Elizabeth is considered the beauty of the family and as such is the apple of her father’s eye. She revels in being the lady of the house and is equally as dismissive of Anne as her father. Mary is the most bearable of the three despite having a tendency to whine whenever she feel slighted by her company (which is frequent) and being something of a hypochondriac.
Anne by contrast is intelligent, considerate and overly mindful of others making her popular with everyone beyond her immediate family.
The story moves fairly fast but packs a lot in including: a move to Bath, a holiday to Lyme, a near-fatal accident, at least two dastardly schemes and four engagements. It is most likely due to the multiple events, changes of scene and large cast of characters that I only found myself muttering ill-words about the author once or twice as opposed to every other line.
Granted, Persuasion is probably not going to be going on my re-read list anytime soon but nonetheless I have to admit that I didn’t hate it. I actually found myself enjoying it in parts and even laughed once. However I won’t be calling myself a convert just yet, Pride & Prejudice is still on The List after all…