Robinson is one of the few writers who could make an exciting book about land development. However, there are some obvious plot points that were eye rRobinson is one of the few writers who could make an exciting book about land development. However, there are some obvious plot points that were eye roll worthy and some style choices that amounted to shortcut story summaries that were annoying. And everyone in the book seems to be fit and active with no disabilities or other health issues even when the character is well into their 80s. In spite of this, I still enjoyed the book....more
I seem to have read volume five before number 4! No matter. Love the volume title: I kissed a squirrel and I liked it. Doreen has some disastrous dateI seem to have read volume five before number 4! No matter. Love the volume title: I kissed a squirrel and I liked it. Doreen has some disastrous dates that are amusing. There is also a thing with Mole Man that is great--he will destroy the world unless Squirrel Girl goes out on a date with him. And while the world pressures Squirrel Girl to give in to a man's demands, she manages to find a solution without having to date him. And while she's the one who has to solve the problem, she does tell Mole Man that his emotional issues are not her problem and not hers to solve. A decent attempt at addressing and issue far too many woman face. There's lots of other stuff that happens in this volume including an opening chapter of "choose your own adventure" that is amusing but totally does not work. Overall, lots of fun episodes but too much going on for it to feel anything but frenetic....more
I will never see trees the same way again! Excellent book filled with fascinating information and written by someone who is passionate about trees andI will never see trees the same way again! Excellent book filled with fascinating information and written by someone who is passionate about trees and the environment. Short chapters makes it a great book for before bed or when you only have a few minutes....more
Finally my turn at the library to read Philip Hensher's The Missing Ink. Since the subtitle of the book is "The Lost Art of Handwriting" and since inFinally my turn at the library to read Philip Hensher's The Missing Ink. Since the subtitle of the book is "The Lost Art of Handwriting" and since in interviews he talked about why handwriting is important, I thought the book might be different than it was. In the introduction he suggests the book is going to be about what might be lost if the habit of writing by hand disappears. But the book turned out not to address that except briefly in the first and last chapters. As a whole, it is not much different than Kitty Burns Florey's book Script and Scribble which I read in 2009. Hensher's book had a lot of padding in it, snips of interviews with people talking about their handwriting, two and a half chapters on graphology, one about Hitler's handwriting, and a few others. He does provide a bit more detail on the history of teaching handwriting in schools than Florey did. In Hensher, each of the "great" reformers gets a chapter.
Hensher is also British so his perspective was especially interesting when he was talking about American handwriting. He claims Europeans can always pick out the handwriting of Americans because we are the only ones who have loops in our letters. Is this true? He spends a chapter admiring the way the French teach handwriting and thinks theirs is the nicest writing of any western country.
I enjoyed the social history aspects of the book especially all those reformers who believed that moral improvement could be had through learning to write a beautiful script. The chapter on a brief history of ink was interesting as was the history of pens. Did you know that fountain pens were available in 1710? They weren't very popular though. Manufacturing had also not yet figured out how to make a flexible metal nib which meant it was somewhat akin to trying to write with a knitting needle. Quill pens wore out fast but they had the advantage of flexibility. Now, of course, there are ball point pens and Hensher has a fun chapter on the history of the Biro.
I expected the book to be rather light and it was. And while I did enjoy the parts I mention above, I almost didn't make it past page 25. Hensher's sense of humor is often rather crude and insensitive and not funny at all. In the introduction he takes a swipe at "fat Denise" whose "obese writing" also "contains the atrocity of a little circle on top of every i." A few pages later he creates a scenario of a fender-bender in the farmlands of Indiana between a Subaru and a tractor, neither have anything to write with, the cell phone of the Subaru driver has a dead battery, and "the farmhand don't be holding with them thar smart phones nor with that new-fangled Internet." Still later in the book he makes a bad joke about lesbian hairstyles.
A mixed bag overall. If you are going to read this book, be prepared to take the good with the bad....more
I was delighted to learn in the physics chapter that we are basically chewing on sunshine when we eat. In the astronomy chapter I learned that we realI was delighted to learn in the physics chapter that we are basically chewing on sunshine when we eat. In the astronomy chapter I learned that we really are made of stars:
The overwhelming bulk of our mortal cargo--the carbon in our cells, the calcium in our bones, the iron in our blood, the electrolytes of sodium and potassium that allow our hearts to beat and our cells to fire--was stoked in the furnaces of far larger stars than ours and splattered into the cosmic compost when those stars exploded. 'We are star stuff, a part of the cosmos,' said Alex Filippenko [a Berkeley astronomer]. 'I'm not just speaking generically or metaphorically here. The specific atoms in every cell of your body, my body, my son's body, the body of your pet cat, were cooked up inside massive stars.
How amazing is that?
One of the things I liked about the book is even though Angier has separate chapters on the different sciences, more often than not they all overlapped. Physics and astronomy of course, but also astronomy and geology, geology and evolutionary biology, molecular biology and chemistry. She does a marvelous job of connecting them all together without even having to spell it out. And of course the umbrella under which all these science chapters gather is calibration (measurement), probability, and scientific thinking.
The first chapter of the book orients us to how scientists think, how they approach their subjects and research, how they make experiments and come to conclusions. Angier explains,
Science is not a body of facts. Science is a state of mind. It is a way of viewing the world, of facing reality square on but taking nothing on its face. It is about attacking a problem with the most manicured of claws and tearing it down into sensible, edible pieces.
And math, yes math is important. It is a language in which scientists describe certain phenomena. A language that can also be translated. Angier knows people are afraid of math and makes a point to talk to a variety of scientists who admit that they suck at it and that it is ok to be bad at math and still be a successful, well-respected scientist.
I wish someone had told me all this when I was in high school and starting out in college. I got A's in math in high school but I had to work hard for them. Faced with what looked like an overwhelming amount of math classes for a degree in the sciences (biology was my declared major at first) I felt like I could never be successful and so gave up science and took the literature road. I am glad I pursued studies in literature but sometimes I think back and wonder, what if? But that's where wonderful science books like Angier's come in. I may not have studied science but I can still get my science geek on.
Angier writes with a sure touch and a quick pace and doesn't talk down to the reader. She tosses in lots and lots of jokes. Sometimes the jokes got to be a bit annoying or were eye rolling bad, but for the most part they are in the service of making a point. The Canon is a great overview of science basics, all those things you learned in high school but forgot or should have learned but didn't because you were too busy passing notes, napping or skipping class. And there are also things I didn't learn about like proteins. I never knew what protein did, only that you're supposed to eat it regularly for good nutrition. Now I know how incredibly important it is and what it does and let me say, it is gosh darn amazing.
I could keep babbling on about all sorts of fascinating stuff, like how the snowy interference on your TV (sans cable) is the result of cosmic microwaves created at the time of the Big Bang. But I will stop with that and just say, if you are looking for a fun and fascinating general science book to read, you can't go wrong with The Canon....more
What a marvelous book is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I know a lot of people didn't like that it is written in t
Beneath every history, another history.
What a marvelous book is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I know a lot of people didn't like that it is written in the present tense but I found it gave an immediacy to the story it would have otherwise lacked. It is historical fiction and to write of a historical period so well known and in such fine detail in the past tense, I think that would have bogged it down. Also, I liked the interiority that calling Cromwell "he" gave the book. It made it reflective and thoughtful, it made me pay attention.
Things that surprised me. How detailed and slow moving through time the story is. We start with Cromwell as a boy getting knocked down and beaten by his blacksmith father. There is a speedy tour through Cromwell's youth and then he is an adult working for Cardinal Wolsey. And Wolsey doesn't die until just over a third of the way through the book. The next huge chunk is taken up with the minute details of Cromwell worming his way into the good graces of Henry and dealing with the problem of his marriage to Katherine and his desire to marry Anne Boleyn. Then the final shorter section after Henry and Anne marry, Anne becomes queen, bears a child that will become Queen Elizabeth I and then miscarries a second child. The book ends with the death of Thomas More.
For best effect, it helps to know at least a general outline of events but it is not necessary to be highly familiar with them. Knowing what is going to happen, where things are leading, creates a certain frisson. The book is dramatic irony at its best.
I did not expect the book to be funny but it was. No, I didn't laugh my way through, but there are lots of humorous moments like this one in which Anne has sent one of her ladies off to find a Bible:
Mistress Shelton comes careering towards him. 'My lady wants a Bible!'
'Master Cromwell can recite the whole New Testament,' Wyatt says helpfully.
The girl looks agonised. 'I think she wants it to swear on.'
'In that case I'm no use to her.'
And there is a young man sent to work for Cromwell whom he suspects is there to spy. Cromwell takes it all in stride, he has sent his people to spy on others so it is only natural. The boy is named Wriosthesley and tells them "Call me Risely." So Cromwell and his son and others in his house start referring to Wriosthesley as "Call Me." That doesn't sound so funny when I type it out, but in the book it is a hoot, you'll have to take my word for it.
I work at a Catholic University though I myself am not Catholic. Thomas More is a saint who died for his religion. There is a statue of him by our practice courtroom. The way he is portrayed in Wolf Hall is far from saintly. A book that a student requested came in the other day about Thomas More. It was written after Wolf Hall and had a chapter in it about how Mantel is very wrong in how she characterizes More. Unfortunately I don't remember what the title of the book was, but I thought it interesting that a work of nonfiction felt it had to address how More is portrayed in a book of fiction.
Before reading Wolf Hall my impression of Cromwell was not a positive one but as I read I quickly came to like Cromwell very much. He is not a man I would want to cross but he takes care of his own and cares deeply about them. He is a brilliant man and an opportunist. I know he meets a dreadful end but I could not help cheering him on, this son of a blacksmith who refuses to buy himself a title and an aristocratic ancestry. Towards the end of the book there is some foreshadowing of his downfall which is years away yet:
Rafe says, passionate, 'How could I think to keep a secret from you? You see everything, sir.'
'Ah. Only up to a point.'
And when he misses that thing it will be off with his head.
But that is for another book, Bring Up the Bodies maybe. Though according to Mantel there are three books. Since Cromwell is the star, I imagine his end won't come until the end of the third book. ...more
I enjoy Ben Yagoda's columns in the New York Times now and then. He's one of the few people who can write an essay about commas and make me laugh. WheI enjoy Ben Yagoda's columns in the New York Times now and then. He's one of the few people who can write an essay about commas and make me laugh. When I was offered a review copy of his newest book, I couldn't say no. I own and have read plenty of books that promise to tell me how to write well. I even own that perennial classic by William Zinsser. But I have never read a book that offered to teach me how to not write bad.
There is a difference, isn't there, between writing well and not writing bad? Learning how to write well suggests I might be able to rival Strunk and White just by following their rules. Not writing bad says I can feel confident I won't embarrass myself in public. I don't really care to write like Strunk and White but I do care about not looking the fool. Yagoda guesses that he has graded somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 pieces of student work in the last twenty years. In How to Not Write Bad he proposes to use his experience to provide us with the fifty most common mistakes he has seen and ways we can avoid them. Simple.
Even simpler is Yagoda's short answer on how to not write bad: read. Good writers are nearly always good readers who read widely. One can absorb a lot about writing just by reading it. It is also a good idea to read your own work out loud; it won't fix everything but it will save you from a clunker or two.
No one is going to buy a whole book just to be told to read more and following his short answer Yagoda is kind enough to include the long answer. Those fifty or so pesky and all too common mistakes people make take up the bulk of the book. Starting small with numbers, capitalization and italics, we move swiftly to punctuation then up the food chain to words and grammar. You are probably familiar with many of them, I know I was. Commas and comma splices, semicolons and colons, em dashes and parentheses, their mysteries all laid bare in a short and painless way. Of course there are dangling modifiers to puzzle over and verb tenses to to untangle and prepositions to end sentences with. Yagoda also provides frequent reminders of why we should love our print dictionaries and not trust spell-check.
The final portion of the book focuses on things that aren't necessarily mistakes but are definitely unforgivably sloppy. Here we have discussions about cliches, qualifiers and intensifiers, long and Latinate versus short and Anglo-Saxon, and ambiguity. The section on ambiguity is a hoot. Examples include headlines from respected newspapers, "British Left Waffles on Falklands" and "Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge" and the classic Groucho line, "Last night I shot an elephant in my pajamas."
Yagoda focuses on the nuts and bolts mainly at the word and sentence level. There is brief discussion on tone and paragraphs that is just enough to be suggestive but not enough to be big picture useful. Throughout the book he encourages us to be mindful writers: stop the multi-tasking, pay attention, figure out what you want to say and then make every word in the sentence serve a purpose. Good advice I too often ignore.
How to Not Write Bad is useful and even fun reading. Yagoda's light and humorous approach goes much farther than dour finger shaking that makes you feel stupid and ashamed. The book is good for students, bloggers, and anyone who wants to work on not writing bad. This is one I definitely will be keeping at hand on my reference shelf....more
He increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country, he was only conscious that he was Toad once more, Toad at his best and highest, Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night. He chanted as he flew, and the car responded with sonorous drone; the miles were eaten up under him as he sped he knew not whither, fulfilling his instincts, living his hour, reckless of what might come to him.
I loved that ride. It was the best kid's ride at Disneyland and was so good that adults could even enjoy it. But I didn't know who Toad was or why he had a wild ride. Until now.
I did not read Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame when I was a kid. We had a picture book called Frog and Toad are Friends but it turns out that Toad has nothing to do with Mr. Toad.
If I had read Wind in the Willows as a child I am sure I would have loved it. I can see why it is so beloved, but reading it for the first time as an adult meant I noticed too many odd things. The animals change sizes from animal size to human size. The animals speak English and talk to people. Toad has hair. And how could anyone mistake a Toad dressed up as a washerwoman for a real human woman? All the animals are also male which is kind of weird. And I found the book a bit disjointed with Toad's story being interrupted by other stories featuring Ratty and Mole.
I did quite enjoy Ratty and Mole's friendship. I also really liked the story of Ratty being tempted to run off to try his paws at sea. He's perfectly happy with his life on the riverside but temporarily is charmed by a passing Sea Rat into to thinking the migrant life is the one to have. The grass is greener syndrome. Who among us is immune to it?
There was also a laugh out loud moment with Toad crashing a car:
Toad found himself flying through the air with the strong upward rush and delicate curve of a swallow. He liked the motion, and was just beginning to wonder whether it would go on until he developed wings and turned into a Toad-bird, when he landed on his back with a thump, in the soft, rich grass of a meadow.
Mole and Ratty and Badger and Toad taking back Toad Hall from the Weasels and Stouts was pretty good too.
Wind in the Willows was a pleasant read and I would definitely consider giving it to a child. Not having nostalgia for it though I can't say it comes anywhere close to entering my personal pantheon of treasured children's books. I do, however, want to go to Disneyland now and take a whirl on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. ...more
Written in 1932, the dissertation examines Woolf's work up to and including The Waves. Gruber's thesis in a nutshell:
Virginia Woolf is determined to write as a woman. Through the eyes of her sex, she seeks to penetrate life and describe it. Her will to explore her femininity is bitterly opposed by the critics, who guard the traditions of men, who dictate to her or denounce her feminine reactions to art and life.
The way Gruber sees things Woolf had a choice to write to please the critics and their arbitrary standards, to write in the male novelist tradition, or to create something altogether new and different.
Gruber traces the evolution of Woolf's style through her novels. While it is a decidedly feminist analysis, it is interesting to note that her idea of femininity squares up with the prevailing notions of the time. She therefore says much about "feminine sensitivity" and discusses Woolf's "feminine impressionism."
Gruber makes a really interesting analysis of Orlando as Woolf struggling between a sort of Scilla and Charybdis of critics and male influence in order to find her way into her own style. These days it seems Orlando is talked about mostly as a biography and love letter to Vita Sackville-West. Gruber makes no comment of this and I suspect that at the time, she probably didn't know the two women had been lovers. Her analysis does prove, however, that there is a lot more going on in the book then we generally account for.
Woolf's use of painting and music are traced out through her work. Gruber also notes, "It is the mark of Virginia Woolf’s organic concept of life, that she concludes an endlessness in conflicts."
As long as there is night and day, light and darkness, there will be antithetic stylists, inimical poets and negating critics. The conclusion that there is no absolute truth in either fact or fancy, structural or rhythmic form, enables her to employ both styles without self-consciousness or doubt.
The Waves, Gruber concludes, shows Woolf as having at last achieved the style she had been working towards.
There is much of interest in this dissertation that I haven't even mentioned. I think much of what Gruber wrote still holds up today. As I was reading, I had to pause in wonder now and then since Gruber wrote it when she was only twenty. Oh, and she wrote it in a year while also taking a full load of classes. She also uses no secondary sources because no one had really done any critical analysis of Woolf at the time. Gruber's range of knowledge about Woolf's work and literature in general left me impressed and envious. How did she know all that without the aid of Google or other critical sources? It's enough to make one feel both lazy and stupid.
I don't think The Will to Create as a Woman would be of interest to everyone, but if Woolf is one of your favorite authors this is a book that will definitely appeal. And here is an interesting non-related tidbit I gleaned from the acknowledgements: author Dava Sobel is Gruber's niece....more
When I began reading an e-galley of this book thought I was reading an introduction by J.C. Hallman to a collection of selected letters. About a quartWhen I began reading an e-galley of this book thought I was reading an introduction by J.C. Hallman to a collection of selected letters. About a quarter of the way in I started thinking, wow, this has got to be the world's longest introduction. Just shy of a third of the way in with no sign that this very good and thorough introduction was going to end, I did a bit more investigating. Surprise! It is not a book of selected letters at all but a book about the letters. It took me a bit to shift my expectations and how I was reading before I was off and running with the book I actually had and not the book I thought I had.
William and Henry were great letter writers in general and they wrote regularly to each other. I get the feeling that there are a lot, hundreds, of letters just between the two of them. While they wrote about art and their travels and their reading and what they were working on, nothing, generally was off limits. On an early trip around Europe Henry suffered from a bad case of constipation and dutifully kept William informed of the details of his situation right down to when his bowels finally let go. I am sure William was just as relieved as Henry.
The brothers were, apparently, also great gossips, especially Henry. He would sometimes complain when William didn't include enough gossip in his letters. While William would write about his wife and children, it doesn't seem like Henry ever wrote about his sexual orientation and I wonder if William knew or even suspected?
Of course, the focus of the book is on the influence William and Henry had on each other's work. Henry had a great respect for William's work in psychology. It is William from whom "stream of consciousness" originates. Henry took it up and worked with it and strove always to give the impression on paper of how the mind works. The closer he could get to that, the more realistic he believed his writing to be.
And while William appreciated what Henry was trying to do and read all of his work, he was mostly baffled by it and often chided Henry. As forward thinking as William was in psychology, when it came to literature, what he really wanted was a good, old-fashioned story he could escape into so he could unwind from his day. Of course, Henry just couldn't give him what he wanted. William sometimes wondered why Henry couldn't write like he, William, did, forgetting of course that he was writing for a scholarly audience and Henry was writing fiction. William once tried his hand at fiction writing and produced a very bad short story.
As with any siblings there was sometimes jealously. Henry's career got off to an early start and William was a bit nonplussed. William didn't publish his first book until he was forty-eight but after that, his reputation grew and he no longer had anything to be jealous of Henry about.
It is clear that despite their differences, William and Henry loved each other very much. They also inspired and challenged each other. As they grew older and their personal aesthetics became more diverged, Henry was always able to be generous with his praise for William's work. But big brother William, thinking he was helping Henry, offered up criticism. After reading The Golden Bowl William wrote,
But why won’t you, just to please Brother, sit down and write a new book, with no twilight or mustiness in the plot, with great vigor and decisiveness in the action, no fencing in the dialogue, no psychological commentaries, and absolute straightness in the style?
I mean . . . to try to produce some uncanny form of thing, in fiction, that will gratify you, as Brother—but let me say, dear William, that I shall greatly be humiliated if you do like it, & thereby lump it, in your affection, with things, of the current age, that I have heard you express admiration for & that I would sooner descend to a dishonoured grave than have written.
William would complain to Henry for what he saw as Henry's "growing tendency toward 'over-refinement' or 'curliness' of style." Henry would reply that the popular style William advocated was tasteless and that he would rather starve than write that way.
As a book examining the letters between William and Henry and what light they shed on their relationship both filially, artistically and intellectually, it's pretty good. It made me want to read the letters even more so I could get more continuity and a better sense of their correspondence styles. It is also rather fun learning of their love for gossip and that even these two "greats" would bicker as siblings do. The thing about letters, as Henry found out when he read the letters of his idol, Balzac, is they humanize the minds we encounter in the books, bringing them down from the lofty heights and show the person, warts and all. Henry was utterly disappointed to learn how crass and vulgar Balzac could be as a person but I found it most delightful to meet the very human James brothers....more
In the print versus digital divide Book Was There by Andrew Piper is the voice of reason. He is interested in examining the relationship between booksIn the print versus digital divide Book Was There by Andrew Piper is the voice of reason. He is interested in examining the relationship between books and screens, in identifying the fundamental differences as well as their similarities. Piper asks us
to remember the diversity that surrounds reading and the manifold, and sometimes strange, tools upon which is has historically been based. The question is not one of 'versus,' of two single antagonists squaring off in a ring; rather, the question is far more ecological in nature. How will these two very different species and their many varieties coexist within the greater ecosystem known as reading?
Through seven chapters Piper examines various aspects of reading books in print and on a screen. He looks at the physical nature of the book and how we respond to it. And he discuses how digital books are trickier because we don't ever see the book. We only see the device and the words appear on a screen. Where the book opens and invites us in, the screen keeps us out.
Another chapter examines the act of looking. When we read a book we see the words on the page but we are looking beyond the words and through the book. Screens, on the other hand, encourage us to look on as voyeurs. Instead of being a window we look through, a screen often becomes a "metalabyrinth of mutual regard." Still another chapter is about the page and what the page of a book does and how it affects the way we read in contrast to a "page" on a screen.
There is also a chapter on making notes and annotations and here Piper provides the best explanation about why handwriting is important that I have ever come across. Writing and reading are intimately connected. When we write with our hands we are also learning to draw and when we learn to draw we are also learning to "think more complexly with words." Research finds that children who learn how to draw before they write tend to produce more complex words and sentences. Drawing helps pull together all sorts of information in the brain, it is a way to think and analyze. Drawing and writing together add a whole new way of being able to think. Not to mention that the physical act of writing something by hand, say copying a passage from a book, helps us internalize and remember what we have written better than if we had just typed it.
Piper also has a chapter on sharing, one on reading and our relationship to the spaces we read in, and one on the connection between reading and mathematics.
There are lots of interesting ideas in Book Was There, some I agreed with and some I did not. Sometimes I found myself wondering what the point was Piper was trying to make and other times I wanted to shout, "yes! that's exactly right!" I am tempted to go through each chapter and mark out his arguments for you so we can "talk" about them all but then we would be here forever and some of the arguments are too detailed and complex to do justice to here.
Piper clearly loves books but he also finds the digital has much to offer. He isn't entirely sure that some of our digital text encounters can really be called reading any longer but he believes we should not be bothered by that. He thinks we should put down our books now and then and do some digital exploring. But he also warns against computers becoming the new book. We need both, he says, because they each foster different ways of thinking and seeing the world and the more ways we have to think, communicate and explore, the better. That's something I think most of us can agree with....more
I’ve read Jane Austen’s Persuasion twice before while at college for two different classes. I liked it both times, placing it as my favorite Austen buI’ve read Jane Austen’s Persuasion twice before while at college for two different classes. I liked it both times, placing it as my favorite Austen but for Pride and Prejudice. Now at last, mumble mumble years on, I have read the book for pleasure. It still holds second place for me in the Austen canon, but my esteem for it has increased and I can imagine that maybe one day it might vault into first place. But we shall see.
Our heroine is Anne Elliot, age 27, a woman of fine mind and manners who has lost her bloom and is without marriage prospects. As a girl of nineteen she fell in love with the equally young Frederick Wentworh. They got engaged, much to the proud Elliot family’s disdain (Anne’s father is a Baronet). Anne’s friend Lady Russell, who became like a mother to her after her own died, persuaded Anne to break the engagement since Wentworth was without fortune and had uncertain prospects before him. Anne was offered marriage by Charles Musgrove, a congenial man of some fortune, but he did not measure up to Wentworth and she turned him down. He then married Anne’s younger sister. All this is backstory that gets filled in as we go along.
At the time the novel opens, Anne’s father, Sir Walter, finds himself is financial difficulties. He has mortgaged everything he has to support his vanity and pride. He has been encouraged in this by his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who is a chip off the old block. She is older than Anne but still handsome and hasn’t married because no suitors have been good enough. And now she is so utterly vain and silly that she’ll be hard-pressed to marry anyone. This does not bother her though because since her mother’s death, and as her father’s favorite, she has been mistress of Kellynch Hall, the family manor.
To save money and get themselves out of financial difficulties, they are persuaded to move to Bath and rent Kellynch Hall. The Napoleonic Wars are just over and there are many wealthy and gentlemanly officers returning. Kellynch is rented to Admiral and Mrs. Croft. It turns out that now Captain and wealthy Frederick Wentworh is Mrs. Croft’s brother.
The rest of the book is about whether or not Captain Wentworth and Anne will rekindle their former love and finally get married. Of course it is not a straight arrow. There are many diversions and dangers along the way. But this being Jane Austen, you can count on a happy ending. Nonetheless, the last 50 or so pages kept me on the edge of my seat in spite of knowing full well how it was all going to turn out.
What I like so much about this book is that it is so mature, not only in the sense that is was her last novel, but also in regards to the characters. There is still plenty of sparkle and wit, but it is more measured, and if anything, Austen's humor is even more sly and subtle. I had a good laugh at one point after the Crofts had taken over Kellynch and Anne, who was still in the neighborhood because she was staying with her younger sister, is told by Admiral Croft that they have made hardly any changes to the house except for removing all the mirrors but one from Sir Walter's dressing room!
There are also echoes of other Austen characters. Anne is Fanny-like in some ways in that she is the one neglected and overlooked and thought little of by her family, the one most put upon, but also the one with the best character, manners, and morals. Anne also seems to me the best combination of Elinor's sense and Marianne's sensibility.
Persuasion is a delightful book and if you haven't read it yet, do find a way to get it into your reading pile. It is Austen at her best and oh so bittersweet since it was her last novel....more