I didn’t expect to go from Mansfield Park to Persuasion, but it turns out I wasn’t ready to leave the Austen universe. Persuasion was the only book I hadn’t read and it was a pleasure to get to know Anne Elliot and the characters that make up her world.
I found the premise to be fairly simple: girl and boy like each other, but family friend and confidante is opposed and forces their break up. After 8 years there are sparks still. Will they be quenched or ignited?
One of the things I liked about this book is this is set up almost from the beginning so the reader assumes the outcome, but there are enough cogs in the wheel that you are not quite sure. You have to wonder if they DO get there, how will they get there. At least that’s how I approached the story.
At 28, Anne, who has lost her “bloom,” is considered an old maid, even though her older sister Elizabeth is still unmarried, but she’s prettier. That’s a whole thesis right there, but let’s move on. Their younger sister Mary, married with two children, relies on Anne to rescue her from her (psychological?) maladies with a long stay in which Anne meets her brother in law’s parents and his sisters and essentially rescues them from their troubles. Anne is the rock, the stable one, the ‘go to’ for love advice, household problems and how to find a good book. She is neglected by her father, who has lost his fortune and who favors Elizabeth and it is heartbreaking to hear him talk in negative ways about her looks and prospects, sometimes right in front of her. It is telling that both he and her sisters, the people closes to her, take her for granted, yet everyone else in their larger social circle find her indispensable and only see her good qualities. How sadly common for the so-called “old maid.”
We read as Anne catches the interest of two men, besides Captain Wentworth with whom she called things off all those many years ago. And though she was being played by her cousin Mr. Elliot, I was not sure how she was going to find the evidence that all was not right with him. Austen gives us then, Anne’s school friend whom she meets in Bath and is privy to the truth about Mr. Elliot. While I found that revelation scene to be contrived and overly dramatic, the melodrama of the telling was quite enjoyable.
And finally, when that discussion occurs about the fickleness between men and women that makes it impossible for Captain Wentworth to keep quiet about his true feelings for Anne….Not to give away spoilers, but that love letter…oh my.
Anne Elliot as a person is emotionally strong when others give in and handles accidents and disasters with a concerned, but firm hand. She is patient, skillful and can reign in her emotions for the greater good. She is the person, who would quell panic and find the way forward if she were with you lost on a desert island!
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Norton Critical Edition
Device: Trade Paperback