Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review ~ Persuasion by Jane Austen




Quietly reflective in tone—yet ultimately joyful—Persuasion introduces Anne Elliot, Jane Austen’s maturest heroine.

In many regards, it’s a Cinderella story. Several figures can be seen as fulfilling the step-mother role—the insensitive and ungrateful Sir Walter, the well-meaning Lady Russell, and the anti-hero Mr. Elliot. There are even two sets of “step-sisters”—one pair undervaluing Anne, the other stepping between her and the prince. Anne joins her prince (a prince who has some flaws of his own to overcome) near the beginning. There’s a separation and—ultimately—he has to find her again.

Through it all, Anne’s sweetness and maturity show forth the beauty of waiting done well. There is a richness and fullness that comes with actively living through providentially timed waiting. And while the prince is still coming to recognize his flaws—Cinderella is serving. Everyone depends on Anne. Gentle and quiet yet able to speak her mind—clear-sighted—with gratitude, honesty, humility, wisdom, and a touch of humor—Anne is absolutely beautiful.

In its entirety, Persuasion is less about persuasion per se as it is about maturity, wisdom, discernment, and judgment. Duty is a major theme. It’s definitely tremendously important to Anne, and interestingly enough, would be a major factor in the world of the navy, which itself plays such a particularly definitive role in the story.

In the end, when the prince does recognize his princess—and she has safely escaped the designs of the villain—both see their union as a gift. Anne was guarded from Mr. Elliot by her love for Wentworth while Wentworth himself says, “I must learn to brook being happier than I deserve.” In His perfect timing, God always uses ways and means to bring a man and woman together in marriage, but at the same time that union—if accepted with humility and entered into faithfully—is always a gracious and undeserved gift.

So of all Austen’s books, Persuasion often ties for first in my list of favorites! And as a side-note, the conversation at the White Hart between Captain Harville and Anne (with Wentworth writing) is probably my single favorite scene out of all her work. With regard to both structure and content, it’s a tingly masterpiece!


13 comments:

  1. Oh, now I'm wanting to read this again. And I can't just grab it and read it quick because I have 5 books from the library, and a book on my own shelf clamoring to be read, my Piratical Blogathon to finish reading a book for and write about, my Tolkien party to finish prepping, my wedding to plan, my wife to murder, and Guilder to blame for it. I'm swamped! Grr.

    Anyway, love what you say here about duty being a major theme in the book. I've run across a lot of people who don't like or understand Anne Elliot because they think she's weak -- like Wentworth at first, I guess. And I'm always like, "Dude, can you imagine the strength of mind and character it took to give up marrying a man you love?" Putting duty above feelings -- so hard.

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    1. Hee! :-) Do take care of yourself, my friend! I mean..."if you haven't got your health you haven't got anything..." :-)

      And exactly! It takes tremendous strength of mind and character to do all that she did! She's definitely among my top five favorite heroines.

      Btw, you know how I've been tossing around that read-along idea? Well, I was thinking maybe sometime after Christmas I might start another blog for it (making it easier to manage). And I'd still like to do Leaf by Niggle, but I was running across so many neat idea prompters in Persuasion this time around--that I was thinking of maybe doing it first. I did just read it--but it's not too long and more people know about it that might join an initial venture... What do you think??

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    2. "We are men of action. Lies do not become us."

      (Which really had nothing to do with anything, it's just probably my second-favorite Westley line. When I was 12, we got our second dog. He was a gorgeous blond Malamute mix. We named him Westley.)

      I'd love to do a read-along of Persuasion with you! I will hold off on rereading it for now, then, in hopes that you lead a read-along of it soon. It's on my list of prospective read-along choices, but I would gladly cede the leading to you for it! I was planning to start a read-along for Little Women in January, but if you want to do this in January, I'd totally shove LW into February instead. Especially since I'm still toying with the idea of a blog birthday party for Sherlock Holmes on January 6. ANYWAY, yes, starting a read-along series with a well-known, well-loved book would probably be brilliant.

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    3. :-) If I had to choose, I think some of my favorite dialogue is Westley and Inigo's on the Cliffs of Insanity. The count's line I quoted is probably actually one of my least favorites, but I'm sorry--I just had to use it. I do hope you didn't mind?

      Very fun! Three of our dogs have literary-inspired names (two from Tolkien): Orla (the Golden Retriever/Husky-ish mix), Bree (the black lab), and Garm (the terrier mix). And Garm acts and behaves exactly like the Garm of the book. :-)

      Oooooh...yes. I was actually wondering about that in regards to Persuasion... And alright-y then. I would really like to do it, but if you end up deciding you'd much rather just let me know. :P Does that sound all right??

      I'm really looking forward to doing it with you! And I'm definitely still in for Little Women!

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    4. I've actually shown my kids Westley and Inigo's duel -- it's the only part of the movie they've seen, but they LOVED it (because how can anyone not love that duel?) and now they'll smash about with their foam swords and say, "I am not left-handed!" to each other in triumph.

      And no, why would I mind your quote? It's exactly the perfect rejoinder to my original reference.

      I probably say, "Have fun storming the castle!" more than anything else, but I think my favorite Westley line is, "Life IS pain, Highness! Anyone who says otherwise is selling something." Which I quote more often in my head than out loud, so as not to be totally mean to my kids when they're whining about something, but anyway...

      My blogging plate is pretty full for the next what, 6 months? I would be happy to have you host a Persuasion read-along instead!!!

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    5. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply here! Our internet was going in and out a little this morning...

      Anyhow, yes, I love that duel! And "Life is pain, anyone-who-tells-you-different-is-trying-to-sell-you-something." And "Let them know you're getting soft and it's nothing but work, work, work!!" (which--ahem!--doesn't exactly apply to raising children. ;P) And...but I better stop or I'll soon be quoting the entire movie. ;-)

      And that sounds great on Persuasion then... Thank you so much for the encouragement!

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    6. Just this evening I quoted another favorite to Cowboy: "I always think everything is a trap. That's why I'm still alive."

      Such a fabulous movie. Have you read the book?

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    7. I think I skimmed it once--but no, I haven't! Would you recommend it?

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    8. I heartily recommend it. The author also wrote the screenplay for the movie, which is neat. It makes me laugh a lot. Though I have a friend who hates the way it ends and refuses to read it again. (It ends basically the same as the movie, except it goes on a little bit farther. Doesn't bother me in the slightest.)

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    9. Oh, that's right! Okay, I'll have to read it sometime.

      It was funny you mentioned what happened yesterday evening, as last night I came into the house and my brother was quoting it, too--while fixing a bicycle with the rest of the family milling around. Those lines can be applied in all sorts of hilarious places. ;-) A great movie!

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  2. I have yet to read Persuasion, but really want to. Your review makes me want to even more! :)

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    1. Natalie,
      Oh what delights are in store for you...!! ;-) Hem! Yes, it vies with P&P as my favorite Austen--so often I really honestly can't say which comes out first. Anne Elliot's just amazing...

      Btw, I don't know if you read through all the previous comments here, but I'm pretty much planning to start an additional blog and do a read-along of Persuasion probably in January. So if you'd like to join along with that you're heartily welcome! :-)

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    2. Good! I'm definitely looking forward to Persuasion. :)
      A read along? Hmm, maybe I'll join in! It certainly sounds fun. :) Thank you!

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