Monday, August 15, 2016

Jane Austen - Persuasion

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?
Jane Austen once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.

Comment: I don't think any introduction is required o explain this book. Basically it was the only book by Jane Austen I haven't read yet but I heard only good things about it from people I know and well, it was finally time to read it. I purchased a hardcover edition last year and kept especially for summer again.

Anne Elliot is a 27 year old woman who has some regrets in her life, namely the fact that 8 years ago she refused a marriage proposal from Frederick Wentworth, the man she was in love with and who loved her in return. Now, her family is almost penniless and the man she was persuaded to refuse returns not only rich but as appealing to Anne as before.
Not everyone would welcome such a reunion and there are hard feelings to solve before Anne can feel good with her conscience again but, what if captain Wentworth feels the same, after all these years?

This is such a well thought story that it can almost feel weird how countless authors can't produce such amazing writing also. I mean, the writing is perfect and correct and there's this subtlety that is impossible to not appreciate. All hidden messages one can infer are so well placed, it feels doubly wrong mrs Austen isn't here to write anymore. But life is this, things happen, then they are gone and we are left to cherish or regret them.

I'll be honest and say this did not replace Pride and Prejudice as my absolute favorite of hers. P&P has a special place in my heart, not only for the story itself but because of everything I feel when I read it or when I think of why I read it.
This book, the last Jane Austen completed before her death, is a study on being an adult and thinking about past decisions. It is often said we should live life with no regrets because what's gone is gone and we can't undo the past. But this is extremely difficult to accomplish and I think anyone who claims they have no regrets or that they wouldn't change anything if they could are laying. I know I would change many things in my past, I'd undo two or there things for sure. They still influence my life now, so, how can they have been worth it? 

As for Anne Elliott, she made me feel very emotional. She made a decision and she regrets it still. When faced with the consequences of it - to meet the man she loves again and the possibility he might marry someone else - how something like that must hurt. But Anne kept her emotions in check, she was an adult and she kept her dignity because we have to bear our conscience forever, don't we? And the 19th century wasn't a time when women took the first step. But as things moved forward in the plot, we start to get the idea if their love was so strong in the past, could it have disappeared entirely?

The book is very well structured and we have a very simple continuation of facts. The author is so clever in the way she uses some pre conceived ideas to portray her intentions, especially when we are supposed to create an idea about the characters. The problems Anne's family had, for instance, could all be solved but we are led to see why it couldn't and why Anne probably was persuaded in the past to not go against somebody else's ideas. But we grow up and we learn and we start thinking differently as we start to have regrets. I think Anne's character is superb because she thinks and she feels and she learns but never gives up her personality or conscience. I do admire her as a character.

Also interesting are the secondary characters that surely help us to understand how a human being can be so unworthy and so inconsiderate with others or wat really matters in life and dignity. Anne's father and her sister Mary, for instance, are the type of people we can't say are evil but that can reveal the worst in someone while acting all proper and special. Jane Austen was a mastermind in showing us the good and the bad and letting us choose what to like or dislike by descriptions alone. This seems as realistic now as it used to be in the past.
Of course, the story wasn't always vibrant and there were moments I felt took too long to happen and even one or two characters that didn't quite match they apparent importance given to them, but overall, there's balance and well used.

In the end, we have a HEA, much deserved and after the main couple finally talks and decides they are still in love. It's wonderful to see a wrong made right...
I think the purpose of this novel is quite well done and the prose, as always, manages to impress. Jane Austen is definitely one of my favorite authors and her work is everlasting, a classic exactly because it never loses its contemporary, even after centuries have gone by.
Grade: 8/10

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