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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

LBT's Generic Book Corner: Persuasion

Hello good friends and bitter enemies, and welcome to this week's edition of my little generic book corner, where I shall geek out over that marvelous maven of manuscript, Jane Austen.

As much as I love all of Austen's works (and I do, oh I do), I would like to focus on Persuasion, the perhaps more plain, shy, easily-overlooked sister to Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility*.

*why yes, I am anthropomorphizing a book. If anything, it's too normal, amirite?

Persuasion, for non-Austenites, tells the story of Anne Elliot; her father Walter, a baronet with less fiscal sense than I had in college (trust me, that is saying something); her sisters, Elizabeth and Mary (oh god, MARY); her brother-in-law, Charles Musgrove; the Musgrove family at large; Captain Wentworth; and a motley crew of sailors and society.

As is usual for me, I do not want to give too much away (although really guys, this was published in 1817, get on in already) so will be as cagey and unhelpful as possible. I like this book so much! While it is not my favorite Austen novel (that would be the fairly ridiculous Northanger Abbey), I genuinely think this is her best work. It is not as sassy as Pride and Prejudice for sure, and Anne may come across as less feisty than Emma or Marianne, but I do not see those as flaws.

One factor may be that the characters are older - Anne, for example, is 27, an old maid compared to Lizzie Bennett or Elinor Dashwood (20 and 19, respectively). She has suffered greater disappointments than her counterparts in other novels, and in the beginning of the novel, at least, the best word I can use to describe her is resigned. She is in many ways sadder, but wiser.

I think in many ways she is much more trapped in her station than any other of Austen's heroines. She is quite isolated, and "was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way; she was only Anne." Her father is ridiculous, her elder sister holds her in no regard, her advice is discounted, her younger sister Mary is...something else, and of course, OF COURSE, the person she loves comes back to town, and quickly starts a-wooing other ladies.

Of course, this is Austen. The deserving find their happy endings, and the undeserving mostly get some sort of comeuppance. Foibles are mocked, quips are made, points are asserted, and fun is had. It is just a more bittersweet fun than her other novels present. And no bad thing, that.

That does it for this week, monsters. Until next time, when I most likely will be distracted by SWINTON in all her glory. That, or tackle the literary legacy of Amelia Bedilia.


  1. So what's our Swinton all-time dream role in a film adaptation of Persuasion? Or do we dare pray for a Being John Malkovich-esque situation in which she plays EVERY role in Persuasion?

  2. I dare pray, oh I dare pray indeed. An all SWINTON Persuasion. Such a thing is too beautiful for this tarnished world.

  3. So, not Austen, but are we getting fired up for the new Jane Eyre adaptation?

  4. Jane Austen and cold showers work for me in similar ways

  5. I am not sure, Teach. I love Jane Eyre, and therefore get unreasonably upset when I feel that it is poorly adapted. So I am sure I will see it, but I am not actually expecting to like it.

    In my defense, I never claimed to make sense.