Monday, January 10, 2011


Anne Elliot, the second daughter of the struggling Sir Walter Elliot, is 27 years old the autumn her father is forced to move out of his house because he has run out of funds. The family is very ancient and has a very high opinion of itself and its connections, although reality is gradually setting in.

Eight years ago, Anne Elliot was pressured by her status-conscious family to reject the hand of the man she loved, a young naval officer named Frederick Wentworth. Unfortunately, the broken engagement wasn't as easy to recover from as Anne would have hoped, and she never received any other offers, and now it is perhaps too late. By a cruel trick of fate, Wentworth's sister and brother-in-law, Admiral Croft, are to be the new tenants in Anne's old home. It's inevitable she will have to cross paths with Wentworth--who is now Captain Wentworth, a wealthy man of very different fortune and standing--and be reminded of her weakness in being persuaded by her friends and family not to marry him.

This was my last Jane Austen. I'm not going to pretend to review this book, since I'm not an Austen scholar and don't feel like I belong in the conversation. So instead a bunch of tibits/impressions. I studiously avoided any media representations (eg avoided films, plugged my ears and sang "Lalalala" to myself during the part of Jane Austen Book Club when they read Persuasion, etc. I wanted to be fresh and open-minded. (Incidentally, it's also the first published novel I ever read on my Kindle.) I've intended to read it anyway, but this was also on my Fill-in-the-Gaps list.

I really enjoyed the read, although I will admit it is not my favorite among the Austens. In fact, now I can make a hierarchy of my favorites:

1) Pride and Prejudice, which in my opinion is just the richest and bears the most revisiting. I know it was Jane's favorite, so I think that's a good reason for it to be mine, too :)

2) Sense and Sensibility is my favorite story, with my favorite characters. I don't think the writing is quite as rich as P&P, but Jane was younger when she published it, and still had stuff to learn.

3) Emma, because (to me) it's maybe the funniest. So even though Emma herself is SO despicable, I still love her narrative.

4) Mansfield Park, because even though Fanny can be a real trial to read about, I relate to her on a lot of points.

5) Persuasion, which is many other people's #1 favorite. I see why--the more mature romance, and the history of having messed up one's own life offers nuance some of the other books don't--but, as my roommate has pointed out, Anne Elliot is an introvert, and maybe doesn't speak as directly to my personality as some of Jane's other heroines.

6) Northanger Abbey is the only one I really didn't enjoy. I don't like satiric novels and Catherine is insufferable. But hey! I'm still glad I read it.

And those are my random notes. Please feel free to tell me your feelings :) I'd love to hear them.


JenniferWriter said...

Hmmm maybe I need to read Persuasion again. I read it in a day, and some books are the better for a quick read while others are not.

Northanger Abbey is your least favorite?? I thought it was funny! But then, I did a paper on it in college and you develop certain feelings towards a novel when you spend too many late nights with it one on one.

AS said...

Its been a while since i read these books, Guess its time to revisit them and see how i feel.

moonrat said...

Jennifer--yeah, NA is definitely my least fav. Ha! But I know what you mean--the only Austen book I ever read in a class was P&P, and I'm sure I got much more out of it and that that might be one of the reasons it's my favorite.

Jane Steen said...

Persuasion was never my favorite, but it has spawned my absolute favorite movie adaptation, the 1995 version with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root. Not even the superb BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice rings as true to Austen as this one. BTW Hinds is also my favorite Mr. Rochester, perhaps because he is so resolutely not glamorous and wears britches you could hide a ferret in.

So I am now likely to look upon the novel with a kinder eye, and in fact should read it again as it's been at least 20 years. I am in a "re-reading classics" phase right now, and have gone through Jane Eyre, Tess of the d'Urbervilles and, currently, Bleak House since the summer. All of them, although they have their faults, make me feel like a literary pigmy by comparison.

moonrat said...

You go, Jane! I have yet to read some of those the first time :) (uh, hence my Gaps list, which has been a little neglected lately....)

JenniferWriter said...

Jane, thanks for the movie recommendation. I just went to Netflix to add it and discovered that it was already in my queue! Time to move it up...

Jillian said...

I'm just discovering Jane Austen. I've read Pride and Prejudice, as well as a couple short stories and the Claire Tomalin biography of Austen. Next up is the annotated Persuasion, which people say most matches my personality.

We'll see!