Kim's Reviews > Persuasion: Unabridged

Persuasion by Jane Austen
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Oct 21, 11

bookshelves: all-time-favourites, re-read, audiobook, buddy-reads-with-jemidar
Read from November 19 to 28, 2010

For more years than I can remember I have thought of Persuasion not only as my favourite Austen novel, but as my favourite novel, full stop. It is a novel which I have read and re-read, and of which I never tire.

For all that, it's difficult for me to precisely identify why Persuasion has such an effect on me. It is, of course, beautifully written. Austen's prose is clear and crisp. It is full of wit and sharp satire. The characters are well-drawn and believable. And, of course, it contains one of the most romantic letters in English literature.

It may also be that I love Persuasion because each time I read it I notice something new. This time, listening to the audiobook superbly narrated by the wonderful Juliet Stephenson, Austen's subversiveness really struck me. For a woman of gentle birth living in a quiet, retired family environment in the late 18th and early 19th Century, her views about such matters as family relationships and the role of women are not entirely what one might expect.

This time round I also thought of the circumstances under which Austen wrote Persuasion. It was her last novel, written during the illness which led to her death at the age of 41. It is quiet and in some respects sad, the autumn and winter setting of the novel permeating its mood. This is a story about second chances, so there is hope and optimism there too. In her biography of Austen, Claire Tomalin described Persuasion as Austen's "present to herself" and to women such as her sister Cassandra "who had lost their chance in life and would never enjoy a second spring".

Finally, I thought of how much passion there is in this novel. Austen writes about two characters - Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth - who have been in love, who have parted and who find their love again. Their passion is none the less real for being restrained and is evident in Austen's descriptions of their interractions throughout the novel. In 1850 Charlotte Bronte wrote the following about Austen:
[T]he Passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy Sisterhood; even to the Feelings she vouchsafes no more than an occasional graceful but distant recognition; too frequent converse with them would ruffle the smooth elegance of her progress. ... Jane Austen was a complete and most sensible lady, but a very incomplete, and rather insensible (not senseless) woman

I find it hard to accept that anyone who has read and understood Persuasion could accept Bronte's assessment. Austen clearly did understand the turbulent nature of romantic love. The novel sings with that understanding.

How many times have I read Persuasion? Truly, I don't know. What I do know is that I will read it - or listen to it - many more times. It is quite simply the fiction love of my life.
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Reading Progress

10/17/2011 "Re-read - commenced 18 October 2011" 10 comments

Comments (showing 1-48 of 48) (48 new)

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message 1: by Hannah (last edited Oct 21, 2011 05:32AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah Kim,
That is a beautiful review, and one that resonates with me 100%. Great job!


And regarding Bronte's assessment of Austen, it's sad that one brilliant writer had to stoop to politely "dissing" another. That's damning with faint praise, indeed.

Women are so catty towards each other...


Tracey, librarian on strike Wonderful review, Kim. Persuasion is my favorite Austen, and very high among my favorite books - I can never pick one favorite, because then an image begins to haunt me of Anne Shirley looking reproachful and Gimli fingering the handle of his axe and so on, but Persuasion will be a lifelong companion.

I admit my own love of the book began with the Hinds/Root film. (Now I know how movies-first Tolkien fans feel..) It's actually a great illustration of your point about passion. There is more depth of joy and love in that one quiet scene at the end - Wentworth bends to touch her lips with his; Anne touches his arm, softly, and then slips her hand into the crook of his elbow - than in half the love scene of current movies put together. Without passion, the pain that both Anne and Wentworth live with through the book would be nonexistent. Without turbulent, uncomfortable, inconvenient, strong and deep love that lasted out the bitterness and separation of eight years, there wouldn't be a book. It's a little like the saying I've heard so often that constant use of profanity is a sign of laziness or a limited imagination: to have to rely on loud cries and running about and maybe bloodshed to prove passion exists is to miss the opposrtunity to show it through more subtle means, all the more powerful for being quiet.

I never thought of Persuasion as subversive, but you're right - now I need to listen to it again. *makes note: Juliet... Stephenson* I have pre-spent the next six months' worth of Audible credits, at least...


message 3: by Jemidar (last edited Oct 21, 2011 07:49AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jemidar Hannah wrote: "And regarding Bronte's assessment of Austen, it's sad that one brilliant writer had to stoop to politely "dissing" another. That's damning with faint praise, indeed.

Women are so catty towards each other... "


It's one of the reasons I don't read Charlotte Bronte and never have, not just because she's bitchy about Jane Austen (and she's said much worse things than Kim's quote) but also because if she can't appreciate the passion in Austen's writing then her own imagination (writing) must be somewhat overwrought and that's not really the stuff I want to read.

Unfortunately it's not just women who are catty about each other, Mark Twain has had some not very nice things to sat about Austen too :-(.

And yes Kim, this is a beautiful thoughtful review :-).


Jemidar Just thought I would share one of Mark Twain's quotes about JA...

I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.

Letter to Joseph Twichell, 13 September 1898


Nice eh?


Anna I can only echo what's already been said: a fabulous and thought provoking review, Kim :-)

J, have you not read Jane Eyre? It has a real depth of beautiful and emotional pain and passion, and none of it's overwrought, I promise! JE is my all time fave book :-)


Jemidar Humph. Nope haven't read Jane Eyre and probably won't. I think I saw the really old movie of it once.

I'm with Kim, I think Persuasion is my all time favourite book :-).


Ms Bubbles SockieP Great review. My favourite Austen is Pride and Prejudice, for the first sentence mostly, it always makes me laugh and is so true.


Tracey, librarian on strike Someone challenged me to read Jane Eyre a couple of months ago, and I was honestly shocked at how much I enjoyed it. There's a lot more humor to it (intentional, even!) than I ever would have given it credit for. And Jane is actually, for the most part, a really fine character.


message 9: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Notwithstanding the fact that I shake my head in wonder at Bronte's views about Austen, I love Jane Eyre. It was a childhood favourite, first read (probably in an abridged version) when I was about nine. I've re-read it many times since and I've always enjoyed it. Most recently, I participated in a group read discussion of the book on GR and I came to appreciate it even more. The language is somewhat flowery in that overblown Victorian style and some of the Gothic elements are a bit much, but it's still a great tale, wonderfully told.

In my teens and twenties I tried and failed to read Charlotte Bronte's other novels, but I'm now ready to try them again. I also plan to read Anne Bronte's novels. However, I will probably draw the line at re-reading Wuthering Heights. That may be a bridge too far!


Hannah Wuthering Heights....(shudders!).
Not a personal favorite of mine. At all.


Jemidar You're so well balanced Kim :-).


message 12: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim You mean by being prepared to love Jane Eyre even though its author criticised the author of my favourite novel? It's probably just that I read JE a few years before I read Persuasion! But seriously, Jane Eyre is a great book. And a radical one, if for no other reason than in the way it portrays the central character.

And Hannah, I'm always glad to find another person who dislikes Wuthering Heights. However, every now and then I wonder if I should give it another go. I mean, there are people who say they hate Austen because they didn't like her books when they were at school. Maybe I have just misunderstood Emily Bronte in the same way?


message 13: by Hannah (last edited Oct 21, 2011 01:44PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah You might be right, Kim. Perhaps we weren't in the right mood to enjoy WH (if "enjoy" is the right word to apply to this book!)

I've only read it once, and it was about 5 years ago.


Jeannette I cast a vote for Wuthering Heights. I loved it when I was 14, and I love it even better now. And I came to appreciate Jane Eyre on this last read, too. The dialog, the sparks between those two! Great stuff!

RE: Wuthering Heights. This is for me a book that, like Austen, people tend to lump into the "gothic romance" category. But, reading through to the end, there is so much more to it. Love, passion, jealously, spite (big time), revenge, and then redemption. I don't care so much if they haunt the moors together, but it's always fascinating to watch the train wreck that is the story of Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights.


message 15: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Well, I will probably have to try WH again. But it may need to be worked up to, in small steps!


Jeannette Find the right narrator! lol

I really did come to a better appreciation of both JE and WH as an adult.


Jemidar I read WH in my early twenties and loved it, but I suspect I would hate it now. Controlling dysfunctional males definitely don't rate highly with me anymore! We should do a reread Kim. Just think of it as a literary experiment, I mean, you got through Hardy no problems.

Okay, it's not just because Bronte disliked Austen that I haven't read JE. It's just never interested me much. I was supposed to read it at school but only started it and quickly lost interest.

I think part of the problem is that I'm really not into anything Victorian and have a marked dislike for quite a few Victorian authors. Others are not bad, and readily admit I love Elizabeth Gaskell and some of George Eliot. But JE just has never grabbed me.

Hmmm...maybe I'll try and read it some time. I am honestly trying to read more Victorian writers.


Jemidar Kim wrote: "You mean by being prepared to love Jane Eyre even though its author criticised the author of my favourite novel?"

Yes, that's the one. It's probably just because I'm in the mood to hold a grudge this morning.


message 19: by Hannah (last edited Oct 21, 2011 02:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah I've made a real effort to read more Victorian literature, and I've been pleasantly surprised how much I liked my choices this year (Uncle Silas, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). But I couldn't sustain a constant diet of it. It's very "weighty", dense and melodramatic.


Jeannette Jemidar wrote: "I read WH in my early twenties and loved it, but I suspect I would hate it now. Controlling dysfunctional males definitely don't rate highly with me anymore! "

I was just thinking about this. Everyone of the central characters was a dysfunctional human being. Cathy was a nasty manipulator, as was Heathcliff, and the Lintons were dense enough to be manipulated by the pair of them, for a couple of generations, no less.

And, much as I love JE, that was a pretty dysfunctional relationship, too. Why did she fall in love with Rochester. He acted like a jerk half the time.

Austen wrote about people and places she knew, which makes her characters more endearing. I wonder where the Brontes "met" the people that populated their stories.


Jeannette Hannah wrote: "I've made a real effort to read more Victorian literature, and I've been pleasantly surprised how much I liked my choices this year (Uncle Silas, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)...."

I read my first Wells' this year: The Invisible Man. It was rather melodramatic. Did you decide on a Wilkie Collins book, Hannah?


message 22: by Hannah (last edited Oct 21, 2011 03:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hannah Jeannette wrote: "..."

I'm going with The Woman in White, but won't be tackling it this year.

I haven't tried any Wells. Might have to look into some of his.


Ms Bubbles SockieP Jeannette wrote: "And, much as I love JE, that was a pretty dysfunctional relationship, too. Why did she fall in love with Rochester. He acted like a jerk half the time."

Bad-boy appeal!


Jeannette Wells is one of those authors I knew all about, but never got around to reading. I have Love and Mr. Lewisham on my tbr list.


Jeannette Petra X wrote: "Jeannette wrote: "And, much as I love JE, that was a pretty dysfunctional relationship, too. Why did she fall in love with Rochester. He acted like a jerk half the time."

Bad-boy appeal!"


It must have been. ;)


Ms Bubbles SockieP Have you ever read Wide Sargasso Sea? It is about the mad wife in the attic, a prequel, brilliantly written by Jean Rhys. It certainly adds another dimension to Mr. Rochester.


Jeannette It is book #23 on my tbr pile, so I obviously added it a long time ago. It has mixed reviews from my GR friends, but I'll bump it up a bit and check it out sometime. Thanks for mentioning it, Petra. It is certainly an interesting idea.


Tracey, librarian on strike *whispers* I have never been able to finish Wuthering Heights. Audio book is a definite possibility... I have Woman in White on my bedside table to be read soon. With about thirty other books, of course.


message 29: by Kim (last edited Oct 21, 2011 05:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Tracey wrote: "*whispers* I have never been able to finish Wuthering Heights. Audio book is a definite possibility... I have Woman in White on my bedside table to be read soon. With about thirty oth..."

Jemidar and I are starting a buddy read of The Woman in White in the next few days, so feel free to join us if you want to, Tracey. I loved The Moonstone, so I have high hopes for it. I have some issues with Victorian writers as well, but I'm trying to overcome some of my prejudices. GR has been very good for me in that way!


message 30: by Kim (last edited Oct 21, 2011 05:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Petra X wrote: "Have you ever read Wide Sargasso Sea? It is about the mad wife in the attic, a prequel, brilliantly written by Jean Rhys. It certainly adds another dimension to Mr. Rochester."

Petra, I've always been a little nervous about Wide Sargasso Sea. On the Jane Eyre discussion thread on GR, there are many comments which take the Rochester character in that book and use him to criticise Rochester in Jane Eyre. In my view, characters created by different authors shouldn't be conflated in that way. However, I'm rather worried that I'd start doing the same thing if I read Wide Sargasso Sea!


message 31: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Jemidar wrote: "I read WH in my early twenties and loved it, but I suspect I would hate it now. Controlling dysfunctional males definitely don't rate highly with me anymore! We should do a reread Kim...."

I'm up for a re-read, J. But it should be when we're both feeling strong and in a good mood!


Jeannette Can you give me a link to the JE thread, Kim? Just curious.


message 33: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Jeannette wrote: "Can you give me a link to the JE thread, Kim? Just curious."

Jeannette, here's a link to the beginning of the discussion. The Readers Review Group as quite serious book discussions spread out over an eight week period, dealing with a pre-set number of chapters at at a time. The Jane Eyre discussion was great, with lots of participation from group members.

Is the thread you mean, or do you mean the somewhat less stimulating book discussion?


Jeannette I meant the one you referenced in message 30, just above here. I'll see how stimulating this one is....


message 35: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Jeannette wrote: "I meant the one you referenced in message 30, just above here. I'll see how stimulating this one is...."

Oh, ok. It's not just in one thread. There have been comments spread across a few Jane Eyre book discussion threads. I'll see if I can find one for you.


Jeannette I found the discussion comments about Wide Saragasso Sea by searching the discussion threads. Thanks! :)


message 37: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Jeannette wrote: "I found the discussion comments about Wide Saragasso Sea by searching the discussion threads. Thanks! :)"

Oh, ok. I just found this one for you, but you've probably seen it now.

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/5... (see, for example, msg 124).

However, my favourite comment in this thread has nothing to do with Wide Sargasso Sea. It's msg 101.


Jeannette Oh, thanks! This is a different one, and maybe more my speed than Reader's Review! lol Mr. Rochester is just like my dad. *cute*


message 39: by Kim (last edited Oct 21, 2011 06:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim .... except for the mad wife!! I snort every time I think about it! lol


Jeannette That would sure surprise the mom! :P


Jemidar Kim wrote: "I'm up for a re-read, J. But it should be when we're both feeling strong and in a good mood! "

Or have a supply of happy pills on hand ;-D.


message 42: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Jemidar wrote: "Kim wrote: "I'm up for a re-read, J. But it should be when we're both feeling strong and in a good mood! "

Or have a supply of happy pills on hand ;-D."


Yep, that could work!


message 43: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Abigail wrote: "Great review, Kim! I have to say, that although I think Bronte misunderstood Austen, and just couldn't see her properly, I can't agree that it is catty to criticize her..."

Great comments, Abigail. I agree that Bronte was rebelling against the mores of the immediate past generation rather than being catty, as such. I suspect that Bronte misunderstood Austen at least in part because Austen was not far enough removed from her in time for her to be able to develop a critical perspective on her work as opposed to an emotional reaction to it.

We are as one on the greatness of Jane Eyre. There was a time when I wondered whether my love for that novel had more to do with the fact that I first read it when I was a child, rather than with an appreciation of the work on its merits. I don't feel that way anymore. I would like to learn to appreciate Charlotte Bronte's other works as much, although I somehow doubt that will happen.

As for Wuthering Heights, you will have read it much more recently than I, so I gladly accept your opinion. At some stage, though, I have to give it another go, just to see whether my forty year old prejudice is justified!

Oh, and thanks for the link! *Snorts*


Jeannette Oh, I just love "Hark a Vagrant" Abigail, especially her Elizabeth and Darcy cartoon(s). So, which of Anne's works should I read, to get the complete view?

I searched the archives on Vagrant, but my favorite is gone. :(


message 45: by Anna (last edited Oct 24, 2011 04:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna Haha, love that cartoon, and have to say, I'm with the Brontes when it comes to badboy attraction!

This thread is really interesting, although sadly my l'il ol' brain isn't up to offering any thought provoking ideas of my own!

Like Kim, I first read JE when I was young and loved it on basic levels, but with every re-read I've had in later years, I've got more and more out of it. There are just so many levels, so many issues, and I take away something new every time.

I struggled with WH though, and had to give up on The Tennant of Wildfell Hall (by Anne, Jeanette), as both were too heavy going for me. That said, I really enjoyed the most recent adaptation of WH (Tom Hardy/Charlotte Riley), and found I was able to understand a re-read of the book more as a result of watching it.


Jeannette Very nice, Abigail. Thank you for posting this poem. Anne is back on the tbr pile; maybe I'll look for her poems.

Here is my fave Vagrant: "Ooh, Mr. Darcy!"

http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=120


Jeannette And, I'll keep my cravat on! XP


Jeannette That might be what she had in the back of her mind..... :)


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