Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Book Review of Persuasion by Jane Austen
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Penguin Classic
Type of book: mature, 1814-1816? England, poetry, parody, second chance, marriage novel
Year it was published: 1818 (version I have 1985)
In Persuasion, her last novel, Jane Austen reveals her most mature dissection of people, place and social setting.
Like the earlier works Persuasion is a tale of love and marriage, told with the irony, insight and just evaluation of human conduct which sets her novels apart. But the heroine - like the author - is more mature; the tone of the writing more sombre. Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth have met and separated years before. Their reunion forces a recognition of the false values that drove them apart. The characters who embody those values are the subjects of some of the most withering satire that Jane Austen ever wrote.
The best way to describe the main characters are repressed and for the most part hardly visible. While one can remember them somewhat, I think I got lost all among the details and actions that happened with Anne and Wentworth. The characters also seemed to have no emotional impact on me for one reason or another. This might be something I could relate to- the lost love idea- but again, no emotional impact on me.
Sometimes in life we make wrong decisions, including love. When second chance arrives, don't throw it away and go with it. Also don't judge people by appearances or wealth.
This is in third person narrative from Anne's point of view about what's going on when Frederick comes back to her life unexpectedly. Although the plot was straight and simple, I think a reader needs to know and be aware of the social meanings within the book and what they mean.
Jane Austen was born on December 16th, 1775, in the village of Steventon, Hampshire, where her father was rector. She was the seventh child in a boisterous family of six boys and two girls. Reading and playacting were favorite family pastimes, and Austen began writing as a young girl. Her Juvenilia, writen between 1787 and 1795, survive in three notebooks and include Lady Susan, a short novel-in-letters. In 1796 she completed another epistolary novel called Elinor and Marianne, later revised to become Sense and Senbility. In 1797 she finished the first version of Pride and Prejudice, called "First Impressions". Northanger Abbey, the last of the early novels, was written in 1798 or 1799 as "Susan."
Until 1801, when her father retired and the family moved to Bath, Austen enjoyed a comfortable life, mixing in the best society in the neighborhood, keeping a carriage and a pair of horses, and attending dances at the stately homes of the local gentry. Neither she nor her sister Cassandra married, but the reasons for this remain conjectural, as Cassandra burned or censored Austen's surviving letters after her death. The eight years following the move from Steventon were evidently unsettled and unhappy ones. The Watsons, her only writing from this period, was never completed. But from 1809, when settled again in her beloved Hampshire, until her final illness in 1817, she lived a productive life in a pleasant cottage in Chawton provided by her wealthy brother Edward.
In 1811 Sense and Sensibility was published anonymously: the title page stated only that it was "by a lady." Immediately successful, this first novel was followed by Pride and Prejudice in 1813 and Mansfield Park in 1814. Emma, written between 1814 and 1815, was "respectfully deidcated" at royal command to George IV. In 1816, already in declining health, Austen wrote Persuasion and revised "Susan" into Northanger Abbey. Her last work, Sandition, was left unfinished at her death on July 18th, 1817. Austen's identity as an author was announced to the world posthumously by her favorite brother, Henry, who supervised the publication of Northanger Abbery and Persuasion in 1818.
If one asks me to name the Jane Austen books I've enjoyed, I'd say Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice were my top favorites, followed by Emma and then by this novel. While I enjoyed reading this book, it didn't sound like a normal Austen novel and somehow the couple, Frederick Wentworth and Anne Elliott didn't really ring true for me. In the book, until the very end, there was never a clear sign that Frederick Wentworth was interested in Anne, at least for me. I think I like books that are straight in humor instead of hiding it the way this book does.
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)