Persuasion by Jane Austen is the story of one woman’s struggle to keep her family and closest friend happy at the cost of her personal happiness. A tad too dramatic as an introductory sentence? Perhaps. But true! Anne Elliot’s father’s and sister’s frivolous spending have put them in a precarious financial bind. They must put their estate up for rent. Since the passing of Anne’s mother, she has been running the household. Anne Elliot is sensible but she harbors a secret that haunts her daily. She gave up her one true love at a young age due to immaturity as she was persuaded by her dear friend, Lady Russell to give up the idea of marrying a handsome yet impoverished sailor. Anne thinks often of Captain Wentworth; even more so now that his sister Mrs. Croft and her husband Admiral Croft will be renting Anne’s family home.
This is my second favorite Jane Austen novel. Anyone who knows me knows that I have read Mansfield park an unhealthy number of times. I love that book because of Miss Fanny Price. She is my absolute favorite heroine! Eva Thorvald is definitely my second favorite heroine of all time. She’s the protagonist in Kitchens of the Great Midwest which I only recently read for this challenge. But back to Persuasion…I recently realized something about myself. I don’t read and re-read Jane Austen because of her she rights romantic novels of men that fight for the women they love. I read Jane Austen novels because of the strong female roles that always dominate her prose. While Anne Elliot is not one of my favorite heroines she is within my top five but even more so than her, I LOVE Mrs. Croft.
I love that Mrs. Croft finds herself most at home sailing around the world on her husband’s ship just as much as any of the men of his crew. I love that she does it regardless of the stigma of having a woman onboard. I love her sense of adventure and that she so freely speaks her mind. I love that she loves her husband but would just as easily survive without him. I love that she chooses to be with her husband not that she must be with him for financial reasons. I love that they felt no pressure to have children. Mrs. Croft is an elegant, educated woman with very modern sensibilities. I love that about her.
Another reason why I love Jane Austen so much is because she has a very sardonic and somewhat cruel sense of humor. For example, in re-reading this book, I had realized that I had completely forgotten how harshly she describes the Musgroves’ son, Richard Musgrove. “The real circumstances of this pathetic piece of family history were, that the Musgroves had had the ill fortune of a very troublesome, hopeless son; and the good fortune to lose him to sea, because he was stupid and unmanageable on shore; that he had been very little cared for at any time by his family, though quite as much as he deserved; seldom heard of, and scarcely at all regretted, when the intelligence of his death abroad had worked its way to Uppercross, two years before. He had, in fact, though his sisters were now doing all they could for him, by calling him ‘poor Richard,’ been nothing better than a thick-headed, unfeeling, unprofitable Dick Musgrove, who had never done any thing to entitle himself to more than the abbreviation of his name, living or dead.” I was in tears from how hard I laughed after I read this. I sat in my reading hammock just imagining one of Jane’s good friends reading that and realizing “oh my god, she’s used my brother as a character in her book” or worse, that one of her male friends or rather from the sounds of it, enemies, would come to realize she was referring to him! Jane wasn’t one to mince words! Hahaha…
I’ve also noticed that whenever I’m reading a Jane Austen novel I take an uncharacteristically long time to read it. I get lost in the rich language and the interactions between the characters. I tend to read the book aloud in a heavy British accent. I can’t very well internalize it in my South Floridian accent. It’s not the same! It loses all effect without the posh British accent and dismissive tone! It’s a must. I’ve also noticed that my favorite Jane Austen heroines are not pompous classist pains in the butt. Anne loves her family but wholeheartedly disagrees with them when it comes to sucking up to Lady Dalrymple.
Finally, the last thing I’ve noticed is that I appreciate Persuasion and Mansfield Park most of all her books because the love stories aren’t arduous, bombastic or overtly dramatic. They’re credible and relevant; just like her protagonists in both these books. Jane Austen always made it a point to highlight real issues that the women of her time faced. She had a keen sense of what a relationship was truly about and didn’t allow the reader to simply get lost in the romance of it all. She addressed real issues and brought them to the forefront in a subtle yet effective manner.
As usual, I gave this book a five (5) on Goodreads. I never get tired of reading it and whenever I reread it, I either discover or rediscover something wonderfully unexpected about myself.