Happy Birthday, Janga! Wishing you sunshine, smiles, and happily ever afters today and always.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Persuasion Is Perfection!

by Anna Campbell

Did you know that 2013 is a big year in Romancelandia?

The book that launched a million Regency romances, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, is 200 years old this year. There are events planned to mark this momentous occasion in every corner of the world . I wouldn't be surprised if there's even a Turn Your Yurt into Pemberley day in Outer Mongolia!

There are lots of things happening in Australia to mark this anniversary. I was lucky enough to be invited to take part in the Absolutely Austen! event at Gold Coast Libraries back in February.

I've read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE more times than I can count. I always find something new in it. In fact, my very first review here at the Romance Dish was of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: http://www.theromancedish.com/2009/11/mr-collins-to-rescue.html 

So I knew I could wing it if someone asked me about P&P (especially if the question involved swooning over Mr. Darcy. Always had a crush on Mr. Darcy!), but I haven't read the other Austen books in years. Partly because, don't shoot me, I'm not a huge fan of MANSFIELD PARK, EMMA or SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.

The book I decided to read again was NORTHANGER ABBEY because there's a really lovely BBC version of it that made me want to revisit this story (haven't read it since I was standing in line for theatre tickets in London in 1985). But I couldn't find it. One of the hazards of having so many books lying around the house.

Instead I read a book I've always loved, I've read several times, but I haven't read in ages, PERSUASION.

PERSUASION often seems to be treated a bit like the redheaded child in the Austen canon, which is a pity because it's wonderful. It's much quieter than PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and the heroine has none of Lizzie's flash and sparkle. Captain Frederick Wentworth is a wonderful hero, brave and handsome and passionate, but he's not actually on the page a lot as a character although he plays a large part in the other characters' thoughts.

One of the things we love about Darcy is that he's got a hill to climb before he gets his happy ending. Wentworth on the other hand is pretty much the ideal man from the get-go. Yeah, it takes him a while to get over his huff but honestly, who could blame him? And despite our heroine's obvious qualities, he sets his sights on the wrong girl before he quickly comes to his senses. Yup, pretty much a flat character arc with the ole captain dude.

At the heart of PERSUASION is Anne Elliot. Anne is a sensitive woman of refinement and intelligence and unselfish courage. She's also a bit of a Cinderella in her horrible family. Her father, Sir Walter Elliot, is shallow and vain and a world-class social climber. Her oldest sister is a colder version of the father. Her younger sister Mary is a comic masterpiece, the sort of girl who would complain in heaven and who always feels completely hard done by.

At the age of nineteen, Anne falls passionately in love with a junior naval officer of no fortune but infinite promise (Wentworth, of course!). Because of inexperience and lack of confidence, she allows her godmother to persuade her against accepting his offer of marriage (hence the title of the book). Wentworth leaves in high dudgeon to pursue what becomes a brilliant career. Anne is left to fade into gentle spinsterhood as the family dogsbody.

The story opens when eight years later, Captain Wentworth returns to the district, rich, famous, and in search of a wife befitting his new status in the world. Needless to say, he's still angry at Anne for being so spineless. Through a series of encounters, including the famous visit to the seaside resort of Lyme Regis, Anne and Wentworth gradually find their way back to one another.

Anne is never in doubt of the quality of the man she rejected all those years ago so we feel every ounce of her pain when it's apparent that he hasn't forgiven her. Wentworth is determined not to be hurt again, but slowly he discovers that he can't find a new love when his old love still haunts him. And PERSUASION has one of the most satisfying endings anywhere. I always cry when I read it and I cried again this time. Sigh.

Anne Elliot lies at the center of this subtle story of love found, lost, then found again. There's a depth to her character that is absolutely unforgettable. Her longing and regret will break your heart. One of the joys of PERSUASION is watching Anne blossom into the warm, fulfilled woman she was meant to be.

This was Jane Austen's last completed novel and it packs an enormous emotional punch. You can't help thinking of where her genius would have taken her after this. Charlotte Bronte was always very dismissive of Austen, calling her books 'commonplace' and bloodless. CB never read PERSUASION. I wonder if the heartfelt emotions in this book would have converted her into an Austenite!

Have you read PERSUASION? How do you think it stacks up against its flashier and more popular sister PRIDE AND PREJUDICE? Wentworth or Darcy? What's your favorite Jane Austen story?

41 comments:

  1. No watch tv movie, lie Emma
    Kh

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    1. I really like the version of Persuasion with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root. Thanks for swinging by.

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  2. P&P and P are also my two Austen favorites, Anna. I have copies of both books in pride of place in my book shelves and I have the 1995 (definitive) version of P&P on DVD. Also, I have had the BBC version of Persuasion recorded on my DVR since it first aired several years ago. G-d help my DH if he ever tries to delete it!

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    1. Flora, I haven't seen the most recent Persuasion. I love the movie that was out about 12 years ago with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root. Wow, just checked IMDB and that movie was 1995. How time flies when you're having fun!

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  3. I have read Pride and Prejudice and LOVE it! I only ever seen the Persuasion movie, but from the movie I can def. say its a powerful love story. I do have the book just have not gotten around to read it yet :/

    I always find myself wanting to yell at Jane's characters to quit torturing themselves and just fall in love and get to the happy ever after.
    My favorite Jane Austen Story has to be sense and sensibility.

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    1. Savannah, how interesting about you being such a Sense and Sensibility fan. I LOVE the movie - think it's one of the rare occasions where the film is more enjoyable than the book. Think it's a brilliant film. Give Persuasion a go - it really is powerful.

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  4. Anna, I love 'Persuasion' too - such a terrific romance. But I admit every time I pick it up and read about Anne's awful family I feel that Austen is either laying them on a little too thick or Anne has been too wimpish to be redeemed. Having said that, I love reading the romance, but I think if I wrote a heroine who'd behaved so spinelessly in the face of such behaviour, my readers wouldn't be happy. I wonder.

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    1. Annie, what an interesting take on Persuasion! I find the relatives give a fairytale touch - at least villains from a fairytale! - to the story. Thanks for swinging by!

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  5. Well now you've done it Anna! I haven't read Persuasion since high school!...so I have to go find my copy and find time to really read it! I probably need to re-read them all...sigh

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    1. Nancy, I was surprised at how gripping I found it when I went back to it. That's saying something for a book that's 200 years old!

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  6. I love this, Anna! Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel and Anne Elliot is my favorite Austen heroine. I don't find her spineless at all. A naturally gentle spirit, she was very young when she allowed herself to be persuaded by Lady Russell to refuse Wentworth, and she does so believing that it is in his best interest.

    I also think Wentworth's letter is a masterpiece among romantic declarations and Sophia Croft is one of my favorite secondary characters ever. I love the scene where she "takes the reins." I also agree that the Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root version is the best movie adaptation of the novel. I started working on my list of all-time favorite romances this week, looking toward the AAR poll in October, and Persuasion has pride of place at #1.

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    1. Hi Janga! I don't think Anne is spineless - re-read and see how you thought that. Sorry about that! Wentworth definitely thinks she is at the beginning though. I love how as the story develops, he comes to have a greater appreciation for Anne's quiet strength. You're so right about the secondary characters. I love the admiral and his wife who take over Anne's old home too. Fantastic characters!

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    2. Ack, shouldn't reply to things in the middle of the night - clearly the Crofts are the admiral and his wife. Sorry - had a brain explosion! ;-)

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  7. Anna, I prefer Persuasion because I love books with oodles of angst. They always carry such an emotional punch. Whenever I read Lisa Kleypas' Again The Magic, it always reminds me of Persuasion. It has the same themes of love lost and found again, longing and regret, with tear-inducing, sigh-worthy ending. Perhaps Persuation was Lisa's inspiration!

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    1. Carol, how interesting about Lisa maybe inspired by Persuasion. I wouldn't be at all surprised. I think this story carries such an emotional wallop!

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  8. One more reason we're kindred spirits, Anna - I adore Northanger Abbey!! I read Persuasion *mumble* years ago and while I enjoyed it, found it a little tame in comparison with P&P and Northanger Abbey. That said, I preferred Anne Elliott to some of Austen's other heroines ... well, she didn't irritate me quite as much as some (like Emma!)

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    1. Emma is such a bumptious little miss - which I know is the point of the story. She needs to become older and wiser. But gosh, it's a pain watching her do it! Ducking bricks thrown by all the Emma fans now!

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  9. Add me as another person who's favorite Austen novel is Persuasion. Second and third place go to P&P and Northanger Abbey - the latter amuses me a great deal.

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    1. Suzanna, I really must have a hunt for Northanger Abbey. I loved that adaptation and it's SOOOOO long since I read it.

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  10. I've not actually read Persuasion yet, I got a gorgeous book with all Jane Austen's novels last Christmas and I'm working my way through it :)
    I love Northanger Abbey though, it's definitely a favourite. Although I love the 2007 BBC version of Persuasion...except for the kiss at the end, anyone else find that beyond awkward? lol

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    1. Cerian, what a lovely present. And something I'm sure you'll return to over and over again. I'm on my third copy of Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion doesn't look like it will last through another reading. I bought a hardback Jane Eyre a few years ago so it should stand up to a bit of re-reading. I haven't seen that latest BBC Persuasion. I went away to stay with a friend this week and we were going to watch it but couldn't find it. We watched Bride and Prejudice instead which was great fun - a Bollywood version of P&P!

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  11. While I don't have a favorite Austen novel--I love them all--I do love Persuasion. Captain Wentworth. Sigh. Nothing else needs to be said. :)

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    1. Maria, he's lovely, isn't he? Adore the way he finally tells Anne he loves her. Sigh. Sob. Swoon. Rinse and repeat.

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  12. Anna, I haven't read PERSUASION, however I have a copy of the movie and I've always thought it was one of the most romantic movies I've ever seen. When I'm having my Regency marathon, that movie and the A&E version of P&P play all day long!!

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    1. Suz, I've heard the most recent version of the movie is lovely. I'm definitely going to hunt it down. Thanks for swinging by!

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  13. I haven't read PERSUASION either! I need to get a copy, I think. I do like Lizzie in P and P. She's a strong, sensible, yet warm woman. Thanks for the blog post today, Anna. :)

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    1. Deb, Lizzie is a great character and I love her wit. But I think there's a depth to Anne Elliot that I find so appealing.

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  14. I'm afraid it's been soooooo many years since I've read Jane Austen that I have a very vague memory of it all. I remember I read Emma and liked it. I really need to reread her books but I have so many new ones that I want to get to that I never seem to get to rereading.

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    1. Catslady, it's so hard to keep up with everything we want to read, isn't it? I was really glad I read Persuasion again. It was a book I loved but it must have been twenty years or so since I'd read it. And I could fall in love with it all over again!

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  15. I have read P&P many many years ago as a young teen I think it was. I think I read Sense and Sensibility also, but cannot remember the stories - I am lucky if I remember a story now after reading it. LOL.

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    1. Pat, I'm laughing at your post. This is a good thing - you can re-read all your old books now and they'll feel new! That sounds like a good thing! I often say to myself I should give S&S and Emma another go - I haven't read them since my early 20s and I might like them better now.

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  16. Great review, Anna! I have not read PERSUASION, but obviously I need to read it! P & P is my favorite with EMMA a close second.

    My mom's friend, who lives in England, was an absolute sweetheart and sent me a Jane Austen collectors' stamp set and I LOVE it!! :D

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    1. Andrea, aren't those Jane Austen stamps gorgeous? Lovely Anna Bandita who lives in England sent me a set too and I treasure them!

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  17. I can't believe I have never read this book! I have actually owned it for a few years & thought I had read it, but the description is not familiar at all! Thank you for waking me up!

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    1. Sharlene, you've got a treat ahead of you. I bet you finish it with a big old crush on Captain Wentworth. He really is lovely!

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  18. Thanks for this lovely review, Anna. You know I love Persuasion - it's long been my fave JA book. I think I'm just a sucker for a reunion story, and the emotions are so strong and beautiful in this one.

    It's been fascinating to read the comments and see other people's responses to Anne and Captain Wentworth. You know, I never thought of Anne as a wimp - I saw her as the only one in the family with internal strength and the one keeping it all together. At the end of the story, she finally leaves them to their own destructive devices while she has her HEA. And Captain Wentworth? Sigh-worthy...

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  19. I don't think Anne's a wimp at all - as I said to Janga, that is an unclear sentence and clearly I need a copy editor. ;-) I'm saying Wentworth thinks she lacked courage to send him away - and he does! I knew this was your fave JA so I'm so glad you could swing by and check out the review!

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  20. Lol, Anna - I think I need a copy editor too! I was responding to people in your comments section using Anne and the word wimp together. I love a good discussion about Jane Austen characters!

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    1. It's been fascinating, hasn't it, Rachel? By the way, I'm busy cooking chocolate slice - your response to the baked goods inspired me to try it on another friend having a bit of a bad time at the moment.

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