Saturday, 25 July 2009

Persuaded?



I thought I would share with you in this post an image of my copy of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen. Prompted by Claire at Kiss a Cloud's post this week on complete novels in the one volume I wanted to show off my Austen and stress that it isn't too heavy or cumbersome. I do own most, but not all, of Jane Austen's novels in individual copies but I found it hard to resist owning this edition, and not solely for the front cover.

As I previously mentioned, I signed up for the Everything Austen challenge, and intended to read Persuasion this summer, the only Jane Austen novel I hadn't yet read. Reading the blog of Nicola at Vintage Reads over the previous few months had intensified my desire to re-read some beloved Austen anyway and then I started to think that I should read the last unread one. Around this time I also read Simon at Stuck in a Book's poll post about which was the more loved novel, Pride and Prejudice (my favourite) or Persuasion (as yet unread)? The comments were illuminating -one analogy comparing it to the debate between which was the better of The Godfather and The Godfather II- and then hearing Michelle discuss this as her favourite novel at the first meeting of the Savidge Reads book group, I thought it probable that I was missing out by not having read Persuasion. Part of me had held off because I've read everything else by Austen and I tend to ration books by my favourite writers out, especially when they have a closed canon (due to their death) but now my curiosity was piqued - would Persuasion replace Pride & Prejudice as my favourite Austen novel?

The short answer to this is no; Pride and Prejudice will retain its position and always hold a special place in my heart but I did enjoy Persuasion immensely and appreciate its depth of passion and emotion. I read Pride and Prejudice as a hopelessly romantic teenager in the first throes of idealistic infatuation and in my opinion Persuasion is better appreciated by those who have loved and lost, with its powerful evocation of longing that anyone ever separated from the one they love will empathise with. I think that Persuasion is suitable for the more mature Austen fan, for those who have experienced love and not those who have just dreamt of it and gushed at Pride and Prejudice (and drooled over the culturally epic lake scene in the 1996 BBC adaptation).

I am pleased that I read these Austen novels in the order I did as love takes on a different look when you are older and not least when you are in a longterm committed relationship. Persuasion has a more mature outlook because it comes with the maturity brought about from lost love and separation and Anne Elliot is not as juvenile, impetuous nor as feisty as Elizabeth Bennett or Emma Wodehouse; although I still have a devout adoration of those two heroines, I admired Anne's internalised passion.

Anne Elliot has lost her bloom at the mature age of twenty-seven (!) and has been been pining for eight and a half years for Captain Frederick Wentworth whom her family and her friend, Lady Russell, who took the maternal place of Anne's own mother who had died, persuaded her was no good match. During the course of the novel, Anne and Captain Frederick become reacquainted through other friends and family and after the emotionally-charged first meeting and misunderstandings (as a result at times of their own and others' pride and prejudices) they are reunited and live happily ever after. It's a Jane Austen novel, where they always end in marriage, so I don't think I am spoiling the end for anyone.

This long passage and exchange about persuasion is the crux of the novel with the same title, embodying its passion, emotional turmoil, and maturity and wisdom of reflection. I think I will end with Jane Austen's words:

'To see you.' cried he, 'in the midst of those who could not be my well-wishers, to see your cousin close by you, conversing and smiling, and feel all the horrible eligibilities and proprieties of the match! To consider it as the certain wish of every being who could hope to influence you! Even, if your own feelings were reluctant or indifferent, to consider what powerful supports would be his! Was it not enough to make the fool of me which I appeared? How could I look on without agony? Was not the very sight of the friend who sat behind you, was not the recollection of what had been, the knowledge of her influence, the indelible, immovable impression of what persuasion had once done - was it not all against me?'

'You should have distinguished,' replied Anne. 'You should not have suspected me now; the case so different, and my age so different. If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not of risk. When I yielded, I thought it was to duty; but no duty could be called in aid here. In marrying a man indifferent to me, all risk would have been incurred, and all duty violated.'

24 comments:

Stormfilled said...

OK, you've persuaded me to add it to the re-read end of the TBR shelf! I thought for a horrible moment that I'd list my copy, but it was just hiding behind a clock. I really need to re-shelve my books...

Paperback Reader said...

One person persuaded.

*claps hands in glee*

I hate those horrible moments were you think you've lost books. For the most part I find that I haven't lost them but have idiotically left them at the parental home 400 miles away.

Teresa said...

I just reread Persuasion a couple of months ago. I think you're quite right that it is best appreciated by someone a bit older. I had first read it as a college student and didn't think much of it, but now, some 15 years later, I loved it.

Paperback Reader said...

Argh! Just noticed an egregious spelling mistake in my last comment.

Teresa, thanks for commenting. I think I will appreciate it even more upon re-reads. I am also curious to see if my opinion differs any when I re-read Pride & Prejudice for the challenge.

JoAnn said...

I will add Persuasion to my reread list as well, but I'm still 'saving' Emma - the only Austen I haven't read! There is an award for you at -
http://lakesidemusing.blogspot.com/2009/07/award.html

Paperback Reader said...

JoAnn, you are in for a delightful treat with Emma!
Off to your blog now!

Kals said...

Peruasion is the only Austen I haven't read yet and its on my list for the challenge. I'm re-reading Mansfield Park now :)

Thank you for your review! :)

Paperback Reader said...

Hi Kals, thanks for commenting :).
Glad to know that you will be reading Persuasion for the challenge! I hope you like it.
It's been ten years since I read Manfield Park.
You're very welcome for the review; it was my pleasure.

Karen said...

I loved reading your thoughts on this one. Persuasion is my favourite Austen novel - I am not really sure why - I just feel like I connect with Anne (even though I would say I am a very different person to her!).

hmsgofita said...

I thoroughly enjoyed Persuasion! I'm so glad you loved it as well! My goal is to reread all of Austen's books and finally settle down to read my least favorite of her stories, Mansfield Park. The whole marrying her cousin thing has always just thrown me off!

Rachel said...

Persuasion and Emma tie for my favourite Austen. As much as I love P&P, the depth of passion in Persuasion is just more than Darcy and Lizzie can offer.

I think it's difficult though when you have loved a book for so long, to find another to usurp its place in your affections. As brilliant as any book I read is now, I always think 'yes, but it's not as good as Persuasion/Emma' because I have been reading them for so long and they have become so meaningful to me that I just couldn't let another book take their place, regardless of how good it is. I wonder whether your opinion would be different if you had also read Persuasion when you had read P&P for the first time? Or maybe I just can't understand someone not loving Persuasion as much as I do!!

Paperback Reader said...

Thanks, Karen :). I liked Anne a lot and identify with her some although fifteen years ago I definitely connected more with Lizzie and Emma.

Hi hmsgofita, thanks for commenting. I would love to re-read them all at some point and wish you luck! MP is my least favourite too; I studied it at school in the same year as Emma and it never clicked with me and paled in comparison. Enjoy!

Rachel, I agree and suspect that I have loved P&P for so long that I simply won't allow anything else to replace it in my esteem and I can't help but compare.

Darlene said...

I haven't read Persuasion yet, this is something that should be rectified. Consider me 'persuaded'. The film version with Ciarin Hinds as Captain Wentworth has been on in our house half a dozen times at least though. Love your copy of Austen novels!

Paperback Reader said...

Darlene, glad I could persuade you! I haven't seen the film version but definitely intend to at some point.

Green Road said...

I haven't read Persuasion. That and Mansfield Park are the only Austens I haven't read.

I always struggle with the question of whether to buy an author's individual works or a collection. It isn't the size of the book that daunts me, mostly the feeling that I've been reading the same book for ages. I get the urge to pick up a new cover every few days.

Paperback Reader said...

Green Road, I wasn't such a fan of MP but I may feel differently upon a reread.

I feel the same about reading any tome-size book; I become bored and want a change of book cover "scenery".

claire said...

P&P was my first Austen, too, in high school and probably the reason why I love it best. I also love S&S because the Dashwood sisters are exactly like me and my sisters, in correct order (I'm very Marianne!). Emma I've reread a few times (my second Austen) and while I enjoy, don't really relate with Emma.

Feel exactly the same as you about Persuasion, I've read it only a few years ago, already married. I really liked it but the thrill I felt with P&P wasn't exactly there.

MP and NA I haven't read. Need to! :D

PS. Thanks for the link love. That's an even prettier cover than the new Penguin one!

Paperback Reader said...

I think likewise that P&P being my first Austen will always ensure its pride of place in my affection and esteem.

My English teacher once liked me to Emma and to this day I am unsure whether he meant it as a compliment or an insult!

P&P is definitely thrilling and Persuasion is more quiet love. I missed the passion but I am also resigned to the fact that I will never be as passionate as my younger self or not in the same way.

NA is so very different from the others but wonderful in its Gothic pastiche. I thought it a lot of fun and reread that one for sheer entertainment rather than love.

I do love my cover :).

Laura's Reviews said...

Great review! I love Persuasion. It vies with Pride and Prejudice as my favorite Austen novel. I love them both for different reasons so I can't say one is better than the other!

Paperback Reader said...

Hi Laura and thanks for commenting. Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion certainly do seem to vie for people's affections but I think there is a lot to love in both of them, each very different.

Jodie said...

Love Persuasion (but could not replace my love for P&P). I almost think it's the natural follow on to Pride and Prejudice (if you're thinking about which book to move on to next) because it shows what might have happened to Lizzy if she and Darcy hadn't worked out in the space of Pride and Prejudice.

Paperback Reader said...

Jodie, that's a great way of putting it and I completely agree! Although where would we all be if Elizabeth & Darcy hadn't worked out? Although, the Lost in Austen paradoxical universe where that does happen doesn't devastate me... Hmmm.

celi.a said...

So glad you loved Persuasion. I read all of the Austen novels very early - more as a tween than a teen, but got to this book probably at age 15 or so - the last one I read (well, except that I never actually finished Emma - eek!). That must be an impressionable age. It's been my favorite Austen since I first found it, and I keep on trying to convert all my girlfriends. I give out copies at birthdays and Christmas like it's going out of style.

Great review!

Paperback Reader said...

Thank you for posting celia! I love finding a book that you are willing to give as gifts to everybody you know so that they have the opportunity to love it as much as you do.

I think you should finish Emma! I love it.