Review: Persuasion

Oh, thank sweet, merciful (deity here), I have finished Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

I cannot really properly review this because my primary feeling right now isĀ relief. I do not regret reading it, and really the plot is just as engaging as my favorite Austen novels, but it was so slow. I am eager to watch the film adaptation, though. This is one time I am certain to believe the movie better than the book.

(Mini-)Review of Persuasion

Persuasion is Anne Elliot’s story. She’s the youngest of three daughters, their mother long deceased, and as such, the quietest and most thoughtful. When her family is forced to give up their home to accrue income through tenancy, Anne spends the course of the novel (a year?) with family: Lady Russell, her maternal surrogate; Mrs. Musgrove, her next oldest sister, and family; and finally her father and eldest sister in Bath.

Anne’s path crosses with that of Captain Wentworth, a suitor she rejected many years prior upon the counsel of Lady Russell. Some of the most delightful passages result from her internal musings on this awkward situation we have all experienced in some way – a rejected paramour we are unsure how to feel about. She is nervous and unsure, but finally seems to establish some sort of warmth in their relationship; they will peacefully co-exist.

Other potential suitors pop up here and there. Surprise engagements occur, more people are rejected, the truth about one’s devious nature is illustrated at length, the ending is happy and neat – pretty standard Austen stuff.

I have a new theory. The first time you read an Austen novel, it is not fun. It is a chore. It is slow and tedious and the only real plot development happens at the very end, and even then she rushes through all the fun. The resolution, though, is so enjoyable and brings such giddiness and that’s what you recall when you think back about the novel. So, the next year, you read it again – and because you know all ends well, you can really luxuriate in the prose. Your subsequent readings are not as anxious; you’re more patient. You find the things that make Austen endearing and her novels worth it.

Maybe that’s what I will get out of Summer of Austen: some good, strong classic novels to turn to on a rainy weekend next spring.

Up next: Mansfield Park, and just 11 days left to get through that and Emma (which will be a treat, actually!)