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The Friendly Persuasion

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  796 ratings  ·  131 reviews
A quintessential American heroine, Eliza Birdwell is a wonderful blend of would-be austerity, practicality, and gentle humor when it comes to keeping her faith and caring for her family and community. Her husband, Jess, shares Eliza's love of people and peaceful ways but, unlike Eliza, also displays a fondness for a fast horse and a lively tune. With their children, they m ...more
Paperback, 228 pages
Published September 8th 2003 by Mariner Books (first published 1940)
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Connie G
"The Friendly Persuasion" tells about an Indiana Quaker family in the late 19th Century in fourteen stories. The individual stories were first published in magazines, then gathered together as a book in 1945. Jess and Eliza Birdwell--a nurseryman and a Quaker preacher--live on a family farm with their brood of children. Jessamyn West based the main characters on her grandparents and great-grandparents. Some of the stories are humorous, and others are sentimental and full of wisdom. The writing i ...more
This is one of my very favorite books, so there will only be reasons why here. . . .rather than a well-thought out analysis/review. . .

The Birdwells are Quakers (1830-1910ish), and Eliza (the mother) is a Quaker preacher. Jess (Dad) has grown up in the religion, but lives in it as a born-in does (I'm a born-in in my quirky faith, too. . .and we can tend toward . . . .casual? easy? smorgasbord?). The book is truly an assembly of short stories West published through the years, and in 1940 she pull
This book reminds me of the television series “The Beverly Hillbillies”. A lot of silly stories about a minority cultural group. Not my kind of humour although it may have been considered acceptable — perhaps even funny — when it was published in 1945.
Emma Jane
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: made-me-cry
I don't believe I've ever read a book quite like this before. It was funny, it was fresh, it was sweet, but it was very strange. On one hand, it puzzled me. On the other, it struck a chord deep inside me and I absolutely loved it. I still don't know what to think.

The Friendly Persuasion is the story of the Birdwell family; Jess, his wife Eliza, and their six children. It was much different than I expected; I thought it would be a lot about the Civil War, but it turned out that was only a tiny
“No, it wasn’t Eliza’s preaching nor any outward lack the eye could see that troubled Jess. It was music. Jess pined for music, though it would hard to say how he’d come by any such longing. To the Quakers music was a popish dido, a sop to the senses, a hurdle waiting to trip man in his upward struggle. They kept it out of their Meeting Houses and out of their homes, too.”

Jessamyn West wrote this novel about an Indiana Quaker family almost 75 years ago. Beginning in the 1860′s, we follow this
Douglas  Donaldson
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It is my sincere hope that someday soon the Library of America will produce a volume of the Collected Works of Jessamymn West. Until then, readers will have to make do with paperback editions or funky used ones. It would be a shame to let her portrayals of the American spirit disappear from view. This book, along with the hard-to-find "Except For Me and Thee," offers up her paean for her own Quaker ancestory in a series of short stories that chronicle the Jess Birdwell family. Jess, an Indiana f ...more
I wish the cover of the copy I read had looked like this, instead of a lame picture from the movie they made. Anyway, I don't give out five stars very easily anymore, but Jessamyn West fully earned it with this one. You know how some authors have that knack of beautifully describing something perfectly normal or banal in a way that makes you completely identify with their words and view that thing in a new light? She does that, time and again. Her humor is impeccable, too. The story is about a Q ...more
Jun 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Having just moved to southern Indiana, I thought I would give this book a try. Meh. Started out with some great stories, then it dragged. In one of the final chapters, I was so confused, I couldn't tell what was happening or who "Aunt Jetty" was. Good peek into quaker life in the mid to late 1800's, I thought.
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
The Friendly Persuasion is one of my favorite movies played on Turner Classic Movies. I've watched it many times and there were many comparisons from the book to the movie. Of course the book allows for a slower pace with this Quaker family and a more moving term of phrase. I will admit I'm not sure I would have completely understood some of the stories for the subtle humor and joy that was portrayed had I not watched the movie first. This book is a collection of short stories; each surrounding ...more
Edwina Callan
This is a book about life, when things were much more simple.

A book about life and death, and everything in between.

May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 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 trotte
Jennifer Griffith
Mar 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is loveliness itself. It's surely Jessamyn West's masterpiece. The Quaker family faces real world challenges and meets them with humor and courage, everything from whether or not to have a piano in their Quaker home to the danger of harboring refugees from the South in the Civil War to allowing one of their sons to leave to fight for the North.

It's at once touching and light-hearted. I love the people in The Friendly Persuasion and would like to meet them and have them give me a littl
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! It was one that I recall bits of, long ago when my older sister was reading it and wanted to share what she'd enjoyed, but I didn't read it for myself until I was on vacation recently, and wanted something light but enlightening. It may seem a bit old fashioned in today's society, but one of the reasons I read it was to get a glimpse of 19th century Quaker farming family, after finding out that I had a little Quaker stock in my ancestry. The characters, based on the Jessamyn W ...more
The story of a Quaker family in India in the days prior to the Civil War.
The main characters are Indiana Quaker Jess Birdwell, his wife, Eliza and their children, Labe, Josh and Mattie, an 1850 junior miss.
It is interesting to hear the men discuss politics and politicians such as Stephen A. Douglas.
The story moves slowly as if we were witnessing farm life and the growth of crops and getting them ready of market. There is a scene I enjoyed where Jess and his wife take a neighbor to court over a g
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“Knowledge of what you love somehow comes to you; you don’t have to read nor analyze nor study. If you love a thing enough, knowledge of it seeps into you, with particulars more real than any chart can furnish.”

Terribly beautiful and sweet without ever dipping into sanctimony or saccharine stereotypes. Every chapter, or story, was so enchanting and gorgeously written. I was so startled by the excellence of West's style, especially because I have never really heard others praise it before, and I
Jul 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing collection of stories about the Birdwells, a family of Quakers during the Civil War. The stories were written during WWII, and they start out light-hearted and funny, but get progressively sadder. What I liked best was that West wrote the different stories from the points-of-view of different family members. And whether she was writing from the father's POV or the teenage daughter's, she did it so well!
Also, this is one of those rare occasions where the movie is just as good a
Cindy Marsch
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star-reviews
A surprising source recommended this as having really interesting prose styling. I think it was someone like Joan Didion . . . And she was right--beautifully written, with very interesting ways to convey things. The first chapter was off-putting to me, though after having read the rest I might be able to go back and enjoy it. But it felt too hokey. I loved the way West traces many seasons of a life (Jess's particularly) with a change of focus for each chapter, which is really a stand-alone story ...more
Heather Cawte
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I read this because I watched the film of the same name, never having encountered Jessamyn West before. She writes with enormous warmth and human insight, and with an ever-present sense of humour. These stories are so vivid and real, and I was sorry to reach the end of the book - and then delighted when I realised there was another volume of stories about the same family!
Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
A light and funny story about family life. The main characters are based on the author's family growing up in the early 1900's as Quakers.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: delightful, humor
Friendly Persuasion, written by Michael Wilson, based on the book by Jessamyn West
9 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

- and

- “It will pleasure you in a hundred ways”

This is on the poster of this great movie and it is a correct statement.
Friendly Persuasion is a film about the war, the moral implications, religion and other serious themes that make it fascinating.

It is also a splendid comedy.
You can fin
Wayne Walker
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is around 1860, and Jess Birdwell, a Quaker, lives with his family at the Maple Grove Nursery, which he owns and operates, near the town of Vernon in Jennings County, IN, on the Muscatatuck River. His wife is Eliza, a Quaker preacher, and they have six living children, Joshua (Josh), Laban (Labe), Martha Truth (Maggie), Little Jess, Jane, and Stephen. Another daughter, Sarah, has died. Jess shares Eliza’s love of people and peaceful ways but, unlike Eliza, also displays a fondness for a fast ...more
Jenny Yates
This novel is really a collection of short stories about a Quaker family living in 19th century Indiana. It’s contemplative, beautifully written, and a pleasure to read. It doesn’t cohere particularly as a novel, since there are important characters who just disappear and we don’t really learn what happens to them. But as linked short stories, it works just fine.

At the center of the story are Jess and Eliza. Jess grows fruit trees, and Eliza is a Quaker preacher, and they have seven children. B
Sarah Coller
From Wikipedia: "The Friendly Persuasion is an American novel published in 1945 by Jessamyn West. It consists of 14 vignettes about a Quaker farming family, the Birdwells, living near the town of Vernon in southern Indiana along "the banks of the Muscatatuck, where once the woods stretched, dark row on row." The Birdwells' farm, Maple Grove Nursery, was handed down to them by pioneering forebears who came west nearly fifty years before the onset of the novel. Originally published between 1940 an ...more
Craig Masten
Jun 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mostly reading even a good book can be tainted if not ruined by having first seen it’s movie version. What’s been created in the mind’s eye by that Hollywood interpretation colors what’s in the writing.
Every so often, however, the original book can give a fuller and much different experience. Such is the case with “The Friendly Persuasion”’a novel by Jessamine West upon which the 1050’s movie “ Friendly Persuasion”’was based.
That film is one of my very favorites, starring Gary Cooper, one o
May 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved the gentle story telling of this book. I loved the relationship between Jess and Eliza--two very different characters who respected and loved each other so much. I loved the quirky characters in the neighborhood--the Methodist preacher with the fast horse, the hoarder who never bathed until tricked by Jess, Old Alf the bachelor who talked to his imaginary lover. A longer chapter The Battle of Finney's Ford was a poignant and conflicted story of going to war even if coming from a pacifist ...more
Sep 25, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

Not a novel, but rather a collection of loosely-connected stories about Jess Birdwell, an Indiana farmer; his wife and children. The title refers to their being Quakers (Friends). Most of the stories are about Jess. He has a mischievous sense of humour, loves nature and has a philosophical bent. An unusual book since there are very large time gaps between the stories, but very satisfying as a whole.
Jeff Bracken
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book of vignettes of Amish life in southern Indiana at the time of the Civil War. Foremost among them is the story which forms the basis of the 1950s anti-war movie, Friendly Persuasion. That part of the book, somewhat different from the movie, is worth reading. In fact each of the chapter-long stories are full of humor and wisdom about the meaning of life. If you like this type of literature, this book is a complete gem.
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A series of chapter and vignettes about a Quaker family in Indiana. Sometimes heart warming, sometimes incredibly disjointed and quite often very dated in language. Moments that could have been quite exciting were instead limited and quieted down to the point of boredom. Movie was by far better and given more humor and heart.
Jeff Mayo
Apr 17, 2019 rated it liked it
This started off good but then it just dragged on, which is a pretty neat trick for a mere 215 pages. The story is about Quakers in Indiana beginning in 1858 and following one family for about 40 years. It is broken into 14 chapters. Some parts would probably be much better if I was more educated on the ways and language of the Quakers. It has its moments but it too drawn out to hold my interest.
Edwin Martin
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Since this is a collection of magazine stories instead of one book, there are unexplained "gaps" between the chapters as Jess grows older. Nice read and since chapters stand alone, doesn't require careful remembering of past characters and past events. I'm not even sure how many children Jess and Eliza have??
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Mary Jessamyn West was an American Quaker (originally from Indiana) who wrote numerous stories and novels, notably The Friendly Persuasion (1945).

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