Persuasion, by Jane Austen
This particular volume of Persuasion is from the same publisher that I read this year’s version of Sense & Sensibility, and lo and behold this book also featured a bonus first chapter from another book in the series (this time from Emma, my least favorite of the canonical and finished Austen novels) but also the same quiz that the companion volume had which assumed the reader was a teen girl wondering how romantic or practical she was. One might see something of a selection bias in this. How likely is a girl who goes around reading classic romance novels to be a sensible sort of girl and how likely is it that romance literature will inflame whatever romantic tendencies someone will have. At any rate, this particular book is one of the shorter of Austen’s novels, coming in at 2 books (as opposed to most of her novels, which are triple deckers) and 300 pages in this particular version. As Anne Eliot is one of the most appealing figures in Jane Austen’s fiction as far as I am concerned, it is always a pleasure to read this novel again and I was glad to be able to read it as part of what will hopefully become a close to annual tradition.
For those who are unacquainted with this novel due to its relative obscurity within Jane Austen’s body of work, the setup of this novel is one where the heroine is in her late 20’s and has lost her bloom and is looking forward to the lonely life of a spinster with a spendthrift father who openly favors her unmarried older sister and has leased his overextended estate in order to retrench in Bath. Her wishes and insights are not respected by most of those around her and she has to deal with the awkwardness of the return of the man she was pressured to break off an engagement to eight years ago. A visit to Lyme seems to magically restore her with bloom and attractiveness in the eyes of marriageable men, including a distant cousin who is the heir to the Eliot baronetcy, and from there we face the usual miscommunication and insecurities that threaten to divide two really great people until they are resolved in a flourish of letter writing that allows for at least some justice to prevail, not least to Anne’s impoverished widow friend Mrs. Smith, whose fortunes are revived by restoration to her ownership a likely slave plantation in the West Indies (womp womp).