Curtiss's Reviews > The Friendly Persuasion

The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West
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May 03, 12

bookshelves: fiction, literature

This is the thoroughly charming story of a Quaker family in rural Indiana during the mid-19th Century. The husband, Jeff Birdwell has a weakness for music which is considered extravagant and self-indulgent by the Society of Friends and becomes a bit of a bone-of-contention between he and his wife, Eliza, who happens to be a minister of their church.

Jeff also has a passion for a fast-trotting horse, and the fact that his Big Red looks fast tempts him into taking on the Methodist Minister's trotter Black Prince - but although Red looks fast, he doesn't have the heart in him to outpace the minister's trotter. This so embarasses Eliza that she directs Jeff to make a swap for a horse without Big Red's looks to tempt Jeff into racing. Jeff looks on this as a lesson on not making judgements based on appearances, and the Good Lord only reinforces the lesson by setting him up to trade Big Red for 'Lady', a down-right uncouth-looking horse that won't allow ANY horse to pass HER. Jeff makes the swap in compliance with the letter-of-the-law, if not the spirit - and come next First meeting Day, Lady leads the Reverend's Black Prince all the way to the Methodist meeting house and right on past it and up to their own Quaker church, with Jeff 'encouraging' Lady for all he's worth and even Eliza complimenting Lady for her efforts; much to their mutual embarassment.

The family also has to contend with the ethical dilema of the Civil War, with Morgan's Raiders threatening them and their neighbors. They also have a legal dispute over the ownership of a pet goose, which Eliza wins hands-down by her portrayal of her goose's distrinctive way of strutting.

Other passages are almost poetic in their portrayal of the different values placed on the things they cherish by the two elder Birdwell's.

The hollywood movie version, "Friendly Persuasion", starring Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, and Anthony Perkins has long been one of my sentimental favorites for the way it caught the spirit of the book.
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message 1: by Stacey (new)

Stacey Collier This is also a good movie with Gary Cooper.


message 2: by Curtiss (last edited May 07, 2012 06:35AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Curtiss Yes - definitely a sentimental favorite of mine - especially the scene where Eliza uses her broom to attack a southern soldier to save Samantha her pet goose; and is mortified at having used violence against a fellow human being.

The southern soldier's response when he realizes it was her pet is priceless!


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