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 is 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!)

2012 Reading Update

2012 Reading List – the goal is one book per week, which I’ve amended to an average of one book per week. Titles below marked with an asterisk were started in 2011 and finished in 2012. Those titles which are bolded are my highest recommendations for the year.

  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  2. The End of Overeating by David Kessler*
  3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling*
  4. Bossypants by Tina Fey*
  5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  6. Then Again by Diane Keaton
  7. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  8. Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan*
  9. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  10. Tomatoland: How Modern Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit by Barry Estabrook
  11. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  12. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  13. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  14. From Dead to Worse: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel by Charlaine Harris
  15. Delicacy by David Foenkinos
  16. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  17. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  18. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  19. Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
  20. Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes (re-read)
  21. Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
  22. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
  23. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  24. Dead and Gone: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel by Charlaine Harris
  25. Healthy Tipping Point by Caitlin Boyle
  26. The Color of Bones by Tracy Edward Wymer
  27. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  28. The Misanthrope’s Guide to Life: (Go Away!) by Meghan Rowland and Chris Turner-Neal
  29. Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Lisa Randall*
  30. Dead in the Family: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel by Charlaine Harris
  31. Time and Tide in Acadia: Seasons on Mount Desert Island by Christopher Camuto
  32. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  33. Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
  34. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (re-read)
  35. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
  36. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Are we friends on Goodreads yet? http://www.goodreads.com/cassieirwin

Finished with Pride and Prejudice… Finally

Well, I finished Pride and Prejudice yesterday.

Sigh. Finally.

I did enjoy it much more than Sense and Sensibility, which I attribute significantly to the BBC-sponsored mental images of all the characters in my head, but also to, honestly, just a stronger preference for the plot. Elizabeth Bennet is just one of my favorite literary characters, along with Emma Woodhouse, Clare Abshire, and Buttercup (because, yes, I read the novel long before I saw the movie). I owe Jane Austen a lot for creating this woman.

And this reading was more enjoyable than the first as I have become even more familiar with Austen’s cadence and can read her dialogue more as it was intended. I was able to inject the tones of witty banter and light flirtation that escaped me in my first reading. While reading the final chapters yesterday, on the train, I giggled and gushed over the tidy happy resolution to Elizabeth and Darcy’s nontraditional courtship. It was worth it.

Despite all that, all the enjoyment I had in the actual reading, the whole thing felt like a bit of a chore. I do not think I will undertake a project like this again – focusing on one author for a chunk of time like this. It feels a bit too academic, which I think would be fine if I had not severely underestimated how busy I am. There are also just too many other books I want to read! The literal, physical “to read” shelf of my bookcase is disturbingly full.

But should you read Pride and Prejudice? Where is the substance of a review, Cassie? Well, it’s missing and does not plan to return, I am sorry to say. It’s not a quick read but it’s not unbearably long. There are parts where the plot moves slowly but that’s tolerable if you already know the story. I do think everyone should read it at least once, but if you’re content to just experience the BBC miniseries, I will not judge you for it (and I may join you for it).

I’m moving on today to finish Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding and Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman – having all of these half-finished books is driving me crazy! I should get through those tonight, though, and start up Austen’s Persuasion with tomorrow morning’s commute.

Final word: I’m glad I stuck with it, I’m just glad to be done with it.

Review: From Prada to Nada

I feel a bit like I’m in the early days of college again – when I left everything until the last minute. Though I always got it done (and done fairly well, thank you), it was typically a busy few weeks before the end of a semester. And here I am, three weeks out from the end of Summer of Austen – my first Three Month Project, and I still have three novels to read!

After last night’s lazy summer dinner of half-price ribs and $2 Summer Shandy drafts at Paddy Mac’s, I returned home with the intention of spending, oh, two or three hours on Pride and Prejudice (a novel I am only 1/3 of the way through and did not count in the aforementioned total of three remaining to read). In an expert attempt at procrastination, I first watched Tuesday evening’s episodes of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Then I had to see what “Jane Austen” things were on Netflix… for future planning, of course.

As if it were meant to be, pre-determined for my Wednesday night entertainment, I saw it: From Prada to Nada. I had seen it listed there before of course and never paid much attention to it; it seemed a little too “Paris Hilton” for my taste. I had an epiphany last night though: I would watch this movie, in the name of research! Surely if it’s worth watching all the wonderful Austen adaptations, I should temper that understanding with the poorly made films.

One level of procrastination just wasn’t enough though and I had to put these plans on hold while I went out for ice cream. (What a decadent night.)

Now, this movie. This movie was, well, it was actually pretty good. Like ABC Family good. Meaning I wouldn’t see it in a theatre. I wouldn’t buy it. But I would watch it every time I catch it while flipping through cable channels in the middle of winter.

The movie opens with Katy Perry’s “California Girls” and I could not stop the compulsive, exaggerated eye roll it produced. The premise is set up pretty quickly – two spoiled sisters, the younger being the more rash and impulsive of the two, are suddenly destitute after the unexpected death of their father. Elinor Nora and Marianne Mary are forced to live with extended family in a working class neighborhood and comedy ensues as they learn to navigate in this new, scary world – they have to take the bus!

Somewhere after the first half-hour or so, the movie sneaks up and you and becomes, well, kind of good. There’s a touching underlying story or theme about the importance of family and culture. While there is a “Lucy,” Nora and Edward are kept apart by something deeper than that and watching Nora reconcile her feelings was a wonderful way to take that plot. Mary’s redemption, too, is more uplifting than Marianne’s – there is no sense of sad resignation to her future. And Mary is a college student, instead of a 17-year-old, so I appreciated that.

Look, I’m not claiming it’s revolutionary or cinematic genius. It was a solidly entertaining movie, a recognizable adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and I got a proper proposal scene. What more could I ask for from a Wednesday night procrastination tool?

Review: don’t let the title fool you, if you have Netflix and it’s raining out, just watch this movie ok?

WordPress 101

On Tuesday, Sabine and I took an introduction to WordPress class with Nicole Crimaldi of Ms. Career Girl through Dabble. (Whew – lots of moving parts there.) This class was $25 but Sabine and I signed up during a “bring a friend” special so it was really just half that for both of us. I had literally never looked at WordPress before, but assumed that there was something above and beyond about it that would require a two-hour introduction class. Turns out, WordPress is not hard. WordPress is actually really easy to use. WordPress seems kind of fun to use. However, this class was still a great experience and I do not regret going at all. If I did it all over again, I’d do it the same.

Nicole gave us a great overview with signing up for WordPress, yes, but so much of this session was discussion about how to use blogging for whatever your purpose. There were participants who were starting small businesses, some just looking for more information for the mental knowledge bank (me), and others unsure of the next step but ready to move on to something else. And it was amazing to hear Nicole’s story of fighting back against a job that made her unhappy by working really hard and really smart. It was motivating.

Additionally, she had great tips on how to grow your blog’s readership and how to think strategically about SEO and keywords. I would say most of the participants were interested in how to monetize their blogs, which makes sense if this is for your business or part of your side hustle. For me, my blog is just part of my web persona, if you will, but I am very interested in creating a healthy and interesting presence on the web. While I am really not concerned with monetizing my web presence, I would say it still falls into a “side hustle” category, and these tips were great.

I was thrilled with the class and thought it a great night. The space was comfortable and inviting. Nicole was engaging and interesting – and inspiring. I’m happy to add her to a list of entrepreneurs I admire. I feel ready to really make this blog something to be reckoned with (haha – that sounds intense). It’ll be a little bit, here and there, but by the end of the year, there will be some big changes here. That’s the best thing about these Dabble classes – they truly do give you a taste of something new, and empower you to take off from there. Money and time well spent.

Recommendation: If you’re new to blogging or social media or just less comfortable with tech, take WordPress 101. If you’re all set with figuring out how to set up your blog, do that, and take Nicole’s Start Your Side Hustle class on Tuesday (8/14).