Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Jane Austen Book Club Week Four: Persuasion

Ahhh the long suffering Anne Elliot. Like Cinderella in muslin.

Book club last night was... somewhat serene. There were two of us in attendance. I didn't even need to use the teapot. And in fact, we didn't discuss the book at all, considering CH got back from New Zealand just in time to make it to Harry Potter Tuesday night and didn't finish the novel. Mores the pity.

I shall continue nonetheless with regularly scheduled blogging. Without further ado... Persuasion by Jane Austen.

The story begins with a little bit of family history. Sir Walter Elliot, the proud fool, unaware in fact of how foolish his pride really is, becomes a little less rich than he would like to be. He is advised to let his house, Kellynch Hall and retire with his eldest daughter the beautiful and equally insipid Elizabeth. His second daughter, Anne, is an infinitely helpful girl who never asks for anything. Perhaps her one fault is that she would rather please others than herself. So, when her father DOES go to Bath with Elizabeth, Anne is not to go too because she won't be of any use. And yet, Elizabeth's horrible divorced/ widowed (can anyone clarify why she's not with her husband?) friend Mrs. Clay IS to be useful, despite Sir Walter at first thinking Mrs. Clay a total waste of space. Which she is.

Kellynch is let to Admiral Croft and his wife Sophia. Sophia's brothers used to both live in the area and it just so happened that eight years previously, Anne had been engaged to her brother Frederick Wentworth. He is now CAPTAIN Wentworth and has become accordingly dishy and eligible. But Anne broke up with him because he was not good enough for her in the eyes of her family and great friend Lady Russell, and therefore when he comes to stay with his sister, and she meets him at her Brother in Law's parents' place for dinner, he won't give her the time of day. Rightly so really. Even she knows that she was wrong.

Anyway, Anne is staying at Uppercross in the house of her younger sister Mary and her husband Charles, who proposed to Anne first but married Mary after she refused, which frankly is a bit strange. I see Anne as a bit of a Mary-Sue in this book at times, simply because she is so good and misunderstood and everyone falls in love with her. Charles Musgrove does, and later so does Captain Benwick. Charles Musgrove has two sisters, Louisa and Henrietta and for a while they both throw themselves at Captain Wentworth but eventually Louisa gains primacy and Henrietta goes back to her old flame, her first cousin Charles Hayter the future-clergyman. (Oh look, Jane Austen has written yet another clergyman in her novels. What a surprise.)

They all go to the seaside at Lyme because Captain Wentworth is to go and see some friends, and while they are there, Louisa falls and hits her head and is slow to recover. She is thrown together with Wentworth's friend Benwick and soon falls for him, leaving Wentworth unnattached. Some people posit that Wentworth's flirtation with Louisa was an artificial one anyway, because he wanted to make Anne jealous. Personally, I think he was so hurt by seeing Anne again that he was desperate to feel loved, and he didn't even know he was using her.

Anne eventually heads to Bath to join her family, only to discover that it seems like Mrs. Clay has designs on her dad (ew) and her cousin, William Elliot has arrived (he is the heir to Kellynch) and is paying great attention to her sister. His affections soon transfer to Anne herself. Sir Walter and Elizabeth are grubbing as much attention as they can from anyone in a high place including some very rich so called cousins of theirs. Anne, meanwhile, spends some time with Mrs Smith, who is poor and widowed and was a friend of hers at school, proving she is more kind hearted than her awful, awful family. Wentworth shows up. They have a few awkward moments. Wentworth becomes jealous of Mr. Elliot. Anne is appalled that he thinks she would even be considering Elliot. Mrs. Smith reveals Mr. Elliot as a low disgusting slug creature. Wentworth writes to Anne to say he loves her still. Anne returns the sentiment. Happily ever after, The End.

Basically, that's what happened, but I do hope you pick up the book for yourself because it is actually much better than I made it seem. I left a lot of good little details out, and the details make all the difference in novel writing. No one can write an English village like Jane Austen. She treats her minor characters like her primary ones.

For example, Mary Musgrove. She's both annoying and amusing at once! She's always whinging about how put upon she is, and really she's just stupid and lazy. But oh, she makes me laugh. In a way, Elizabeth is the same, only less comic. But of course, she's not supposed to be funny. She's sort of an ironic character because here is this person who is so awful that if you don't laugh you may cry. And of course, people like that truly existed. Poor Jane Austen. She saw things so differently, she must have been appauled at people's behaviour every day.

Persuasion was Austen's last novel, written while she was quite ill. It has a much more mature tone than any of the other novels and is indeed more mature in theme. To quote Prudie again, it has an 'Elegiac Tone', which as my Grandpa says, means it is pervaded by a great sense of loss. I know want to include some thoughts from Elisa of I'mJustElisa.

"I did think it was quite a mature novel in a lot of ways which kind of makes sense as it was the last complete one she wrote, and I myself find it quite relatable because unlike a lot of romantic novels it's not like a misunderstanding or mistake that causes the drama. Rather it's a timing issue, and i think that in life this is often the case."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

What are your thoughts? Did you like Persuasion? Did you hate it? Why or Why Not? Drop me a comment and tell me your thoughts, or even just tell me you were here.

See you next week when we read Emma.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say, until we started doing this bookclub I would've said Persuasion was one of my least favourites. But I have to say it has grown on me. There is a definitely elegance in the way it is written, a sort of tragic sweetness to it in how abused Mary-Sue- uh I mean "Anne" is and how the story wraps itself around her and Captain Wentworth. Though I find it rather ridiculous she has a grand total of three men go after her even after her 'loss of youthful bloom.' A bit suss there.
    Also, Elizabeth isn't as awful as she's made out to be in the films. But then again, I haven't read that far yet.
    Mary is, very much, depicted exactly as she should. Makes you snigger at her silly fancies of being ill and deserted.
    I will get around to finishing the book this week...hopefully


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