Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Title: Persuasion
Author: Jane Austen
Length: 372 pages
#ISBN: 978020989457
Noura Books 2015

Eight years ago, Frederick Wentworth was still a poor naval officer who had no family connections from the riches that would recommend him to be Anne Elliot’s husband. On the contrary, Anne was born in a baronet family with a snobbish father and older sister who are too conscious of their rank and looks. Her engagement with Wentworth was seen as inappropriate, because of their social gap. Under Lady Russell’s—her older friend who was also her deceased mother’s friend—persuasion, she broke her engagement with Wentworth, leaving him broken-hearted and disappointed. She later rejected Charles Musgrove’s proposal, because of her lingering love to Wentworth and, again, her social gap, under Lady Russell’s persuasion. Musgrove later married Anne’s younger sister, the whiny and attention-seeking Mary.

Eight years passed, and in the present setting, the Elliot family was forced to rent their estate—Kellynch Hall—because of their financial difficulty that could not be contained by their glamorous lifestyle, which the father and oldest sister refused to tone down. Turned out that Kellynch Hall’s new tenants are the Crofts, which are Wentworth’s sister and brother-in-law. At the same time, Wentworth just recently came back from the Napoleonic Wars. His success in the wars got him promoted with a big prize money, making him a much desirable dream husband and in-law. He and the Crofts became well acquainted with the Musgroves and their teenage girls. Since Anne had to take care of Mary before she moved to her family’s new residence in Bath, she got to stay close to the Musgroves. Her close relationship with the Musgroves brought her to spend time with the Crofts and Wentworth. However, while Wentworth became friendly with the Musgrove girls, Henrietta and Louisa, he became highly formal and rather awkward with Anne. Seeing Wentworth’s close interactions with the Musgrove girls, the Musgroves; the Crofts and Lady Russell speculated on which girl would Wentworth fell in love with and later marry. Anne was certainly out of their speculation.

The Musgroves’ friendship with Wentworth brought them and Anne to Lyme, where Wentworth’s brother officers lived. They got acquainted with Captain Harville and Captain Benwick. Coincidentally, Anne and Mary’s long lost cousin, William Elliot, was seen in Lyme and became attracted to Anne. Shortly after Anne got back from Lyme, she had to finally move to Bath to join her father and oldest sister. In Bath, she found out that William Elliot (mostly referred as Mr. Elliot) had reconciled with her father. He stayed in Elliot’s residence in Bath and slowly made his move to court Anne. How will Anne respond Mr. Elliot’s move? How is Wentworth’s feeling towards Anne after eight years of separation? Who will Wentworth choose to marry?

Now here is a confession: I did not intend to buy Persuasion when I bought it. I bought it from an online independent book seller as a replacement of another book that was already sold out. I chose it because of the beautiful cover, and because-apart from what I bought-there was no other book that got me interested more from the seller’s catalogue at the moment. It was a romance book seller, anyway, though for some reasons it sold one of Astrid Lindgren’s books back then. Another confession: I have never been into romance as an entertainment genre (on the contrary, my love life has been great these past 14 months). When I thought about Jane Austen, I imagined yet another group of typical romance stories in classic setting. Classic, but still all about romance. I did not set any plan on when I was going to read it, until I found out about Austen in August. I have never had any of her works as required reading during my schooling years, so I never read any of them in the past. So I thought, finally, a perfect time to read it.

Turned out that I enjoyed reading it much more than expected. It is indeed a romance, but not a hopelessly romantic one. It also portrays the lifestyle and family culture of the British in the past. As far as I remember, I had only read about it from George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, which portrays the life of the poor in both cities in early 1990s. In contrast, Austen’s works seem to portray the lifestyle and culture of the rich in England. She explored most of her characters thoroughly, including those in Persuasion. I like how she got most of the characters’ traits and quirks explained, which I also enjoy in Pride and Prejudice that I am currently reading. I enjoyed getting to know each of her characters, from the timid Anne, the snobbish Sir Walter and Elizabeth Elliot, the fishy Mr. Elliott, the poor Mrs Smith, to the whiny Mary. I would recommend this book to people who enjoys light stories and romance. I would also recommend people who is not usually into romance books to give Austen's works a chance.

After I read the book, I watched the movie adaptation that was released in 2007. While a lot of scenes were similar to what I imagined when I read the book, there were some scenes that were changed at the end. It is as if the ending was rushed to meet the less-than-2-hours duration allowance. Some things that may be important were not explained, leaving the movie making more sense only to those who have read the book. Meanwhile, people who have not read the book may will find the movie less understandable, not to mention the rushed ending compared to the lack of "chemistry" between Anne and Wentworth. It may feel as if things escalated quickly, though it actually does for Louisa. As for the movie, I would recommend it more for people who have read the book.

No comments:

Post a Comment