Persuasion by Jane Austen
Number of pages: 271
My copy: Bantam Classics edition
Eight years ago Anne Elliot bowed to pressure from her family and made the decision not to marry the man she loved, Captain Wentworth. Now, circumstances have conspired to bring him back into her social circle and Anne finds her old feelings for him reignited. However, when they meet again Wentworth behaves as if they are strangers and seems more interested in her friend Louisa. In this, her final novel, Jane Austen tells the story of a love that endures the tests of time and society with humour, insight and tenderness.
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Oh dear, where should I start with this novel?
I’ve heard a lot about Persuasion from my Austen friends, but I never really thought of picking it up until one day that I found myself without a book in the mall while waiting for my brother. My first Austen read was Pride and Prejudice, and I was planning to read Sense and Sensibility next, because…well, it seemed like the next logical choice, right?
But everyone I know seemed to really love Persuasion so that won while I was looking for the next book to read.
Suffice to say it waited on my shelf before I actually got to read it. At least it didn’t wait for 2 years as P&P did, but if I didn’t force myself to read this, I don’t think I would have finished it at all.
And you know what, I’m glad I did. :)
A little background on why I had to force myself to read this book.
I’m not a fan of classics. I made a resolution last 2006 to read 10 classic books in a year but only got to one (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee). The next year I didn’t read any and last year…I got to one, too. It’s weird because when I was a kid, I remember reading A Little Princess and The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables without even complaining of their old language. But now, I’d pick another book over a classic book any day.
While I was planning one of my NaNoWriMo novels, I read a lot of references to classics that I couldn’t relate to because I didn’t read them. Then I read Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series and I felt left out because I don’t know most of the characters he mentioned in the series. I realized that if I want to be a writer, and if I want to be really well-read, I’ve got to pick up some classics and read them. I mean, they have got to be good — they wouldn’t be classics if they weren’t, right?
Now I’m still learning to appreciate classics. They are still not my first pick among the books I have, but I’m giving myself a dose every now and then. It takes a while for me to get through the language, and if I stop reading for a couple of days I’m bound to get lost, but it’s a learning process I suppose. It’s a challenge, and well, I like this challenge, so yeah.
Oh, and classic books can be downloaded as ebooks for free, so that is definitely a perk. :P
Back to Persuasion.
It took me a while to really get into this book. I admit the first few pages kind of made my head hurt, because I couldn’t get into the language. But once Anne Elliot finally showed herself in the book, I started getting comfortable and I actually started liking it. A lot.
I think the thing that really struck me here was Anne Elliot herself. I loved Elizabeth Bennet in P&P, but I realized how much I loved Anne more in this novel. Elizabeth was a feisty and strong-headed woman, someone who you’d want to have as a friend. Anne was someone who I want to be. She’s emotionally mature, with the way she deals with her family and her emotions especially with Captain Wentworth. She knows when to speak up and when to let it be. She keeps her appointments despite what other people say, and she has her mind and heart in the right place. It was sad that she’s such a social outcast in her family, but I think that gave her the character that made her so lovable. I bet she doesn’t even need to take some adult acne treatment, and if she needed to, she would have taken it with much grace.
Who wouldn’t want to be her, seriously?
Other than Anne, the story captivated me. This is like, the foundation of all “almost-unrequited-love” stories. I felt Anne’s pain when Captain Wentworth was too formal with her and she realized that it was better if he just ignored her, as quoted below:
Once, too, he spoke to her. She had left the instrument on the dancing being over, and he had sat down to try to make out an air which he wished to give the Miss Musgroves an idea of. Unintentionally she returned to that part of the room; he saw her, and, instantly rising, said, with studied politeness—
“I beg your pardon, madam, this is your seat;” and though she immediately drew back with a decided negative, he was not to be induced to sit down again.
Anne did not wish for more of such looks and speeches. His cold politeness, his ceremonious grace, were worse than anything.
I also felt her sadness when she thought that his friends could have been her friends if they had pushed through with the engagement. I felt her slight joy when she saw him give her a glance that wasn’t cold. I felt her excitement when she learned that Captain Wentworth was “available”. I smiled when he assisted her with Mary’s child. I felt surprised when she learned that he was jealous for her attention. And I was smiling like an idiot when I read his letter to her:
I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men.
How can you not love this book?
I’m so glad I read this. :) It would take a while for me to get over this, and now I can say that Captain Wentworth is one of my book crushes, along with Wes Baker and Fitzwilliam Darcy. :P