_inbetween_'s Reviews > Persuasion

Persuasion by Jane Austen
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Mar 13, 2009

Read in January, 2009

As much as IIRC enjoying this romance novel when I first read it, as much did I find at fault now - for personal reasons of course, it has to be noted again - although these for once might reveal something that critics hadn't - couldn't have! - noticed, for who but a wallflower or spinster would?

As you can see from this first sentence, it's easy to slip into Austen's language, and this is a very translucent book, nothing is opaque or hard to understand (the footnotes are annoying in the extreme, not one explaining anything that needed to be). As the introduction points out, Austen's own niece wanting her to persuade her into a long engagement caused her to write this book, which is full of people persuading others of things - not least of all Anne Elliot herself, who manages to manipulate her younger sister and the Musgroves easily.

Her rebirth, the return of her dead love and the repeated reawakening of their feelings, surely must have delighted me in my youth. It seemed so much more like dead and buried hopes coming to their deserved fruition, the happy end so much more joyous for its "unexpectedness" at the very beginning, when Anne is said to be faded and wilted, even by her former love Wentworth. The Admiral and Mrs. Croft, seen as the model and future for her own marriage-to-be (unless Wentworth dies, which I know can believe considering Austen's bio and the last lines), are the nicest, most interesting couple, their love and companionship true and strong.

It is therefore with pain, not pleasure, that I came to despise Anne and Austen, for being and writing a Mary Sue which still appeals to women 200 years later, because its more of a Cinderella tale than the more famous romantic cliché of Darcy. Anne is the truly super-duper heroine, but internally she does exactly the same as the misses that are ridiculed for discussing Wentworth and their chances with him. She only blooms because she dreams her dowdy self might catch his interest - and which dowdy lonely wallflowery or spinstery reader wouldn't at least subconsciously revel in such scenes as when Wentworth notices, cares and looks out for Anne?

Except now I know it's the worst, most dangerous kind of self-deception, and a thousand bad romances based on copies of copies of these first novels, with ravishing heroines making dashing heroes swoon can never ever be as destructive as Austen (and to a much much lesser degree, because more realistic, Heyer). Little can be more destructive (to (such) lives) as coming to believe that the one true love will come into one's own home (twice) due to circumstances and that people will recognise the beauty inside the homely person sitting quietly in the corner, so just do that and you'll be alright - or die alone before your time, like Austen, whom I once used to admire for advocating to not marry rather than marry an awful man.

Now I'm with the bad guys in Fahrenheit who say books should be burned because they are dangerous - no sex drugs and violence films could ever be as dangerous to a mind like mine than these stories where the shiny male might pay attention to the superficial anti-heroines but really notice the mousy "intelligent" heroine? Where he might stare out a window and only talk to the blonde beauties, but always be at hand to rescue Anne from small children, notice any other man admiring her, insist on her taking the carriage seat or being the best to nurse a coma victim?

I'm used to and always delighted in the refined disection of thoughts and feelings, the way characters and actions are described and judged in a broad variety of nearly identical terms that would be incomprehensible or lumped into one today. But just now I cannot agree that Anne's feelings and thoughts are really so utterly different ot he "selfish vanity" her sister's are meant to show in contrast. Only once does there seem a conscious exaggeration, when the niceness (in the old meaning) of Anne's thoughts were said to nearly "perfume the street", which couldn't have been meant seriously.

Forget themes and satire, forget even the nasty slurs about fat women not being worthy of even emotions, these books are relevant still today because there are still some females who have a narrow social field, little experience - and so much yearning.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee You are very hard on yourself.


message 2: by _inbetween_ (new) - added it

_inbetween_ Well, yes, but I hadn't thought that would be apparent on GR as well. I realise that was naive of me, but I'm just trying to be honest and subjective in my subjectivity.


message 3: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee You are refreshingly honest. I don't think many people write reviews in such a personal and soul baring way. After I read your review of Persuasion, I sat and thought about it for quite a while. It made me question my own attraction to Ms. Austen's work.


message 4: by _inbetween_ (last edited Mar 13, 2009 11:06AM) (new) - added it

_inbetween_ In a way I'm still very glad that Austen is such an established and reverred classic, but I can't help pointing out the fallacy in overlooking what most readers actually like or see in it. Seen from the flipside though, it makes her and Heyer once again rise above the mere romances, since men always liked and read them, too, as sad as such a qualitative statement is (it's not really that sad, because the quality of Wire in the Blood is underlined by its many female fen; it's more about something being able to transcend the gender divide and thus proove to be more than just one thing).


message 5: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee I haven't read Wire in the Blood so I can't comment on that.

While I haven't read Austen in a few years, I have no doubt that I would still enjoy her stories as much now as I did 20 years ago. Maybe people don't want to examine too closely why they feel such a delicious thrill while reading her. Those relationships are certainly nothing like the ones I've experienced. At least not for more than the first few months anyway!


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