Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The title: Persuasion
The author: Jane Austen
Publication: Crown, 1981 (org. 1818)
Got it from: Mom, Easter 1996

Reading Persuasion is like having a comforting Thanksgiving dinner at home, which is good because I didn't get to experience that this year. You know exactly what to expect, so you can just sit back and enjoy the good wholesomeness.

Persuasion is the story of twenty-seven-year-old Anne Elliot, who in the Regency period is considered an old maid spinster. Eight years ago she had a brief but dazzling romance with a young navy man, but was persuaded by an older friend that the match would be imprudent. Now her family are in financial ruins and he's come back as Captain Wentworth, a well-respected and rising star in the navy and rich to boot. Oh, the thousands of Regency romances this plot has generated. Poor Anne, who has lost the bloom of her youth and must watch him court two silly relations instead!

If Captain Wentworth wasn't such a nice guy with a lot of sense (unlike some heroes I can think of, Edmund) this story could have been painfully awful. But Anne isn't entirely a shrinking violet and it's wonderful to watch as his presence makes her regain her sparkle. He doesn't realize it because he's still angry with her, but his attraction to her is still powerful: carefully read the scene where he's taking her nephew from her and watch the electricity almost fly off the page. One of the great things that Jane Austen does is contrast their seemingly indifferent feelings for each other with the way they listen intently, almost breathlessly, to each other's conversations in the hopes they might understand each other's feelings. When it finally begins to dawn on them that they are still in love, it's a profound moment. I defy any woman to read Captain Wentworth's letter to Anne in which he pours out his feelings at last - you pierce my soul - without feeling her heart break in a good way. Anybody who isn't touched by this second-chance love story must have concrete in their veins.

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