Austen’s Persuasion: Starting Out

Yes, as the title states, my next foray into the classics is Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I actually have not read any of Austen’s books that I remember at least, though I have seen at least on movie based on one of them. So why did I pick this one? Easy–I want to read Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars, which is based on this book, so I’d like to know the “based on” part going in.

So my goal was to spend the same amount of time reading each week as I’d spent on War and Peace. That seemed to average to about 5 chapters, or around 80 Nook pages (it’s a Nook version and paginated by the small screen-sized pages). But then on Friday I discovered my other book (one on physics theories of multiple universes) had expired and I’d have to be at home to renew it, and the children took forever to go to sleep, so I got another 5 chapters read in Persuasion. So this week will be a double dose.

In the first five chapters I got to know the characters, and my notes consisted of who everyone is. The main protagonist appears to be Anne, the youngest (or possibly middle) child of widower, Sir Walter Elliot. She is now 27, but when she was 19 she was in love with a young sailor, Frederick Wentworth, but because he had no money and Lady Russell, a widow and close friend of the family, and most importantly, Anne’s favorite person and the only one who likes her–because Lady Russell disapproved she broke it off.

Then her mother died and her looks declined and she was kind of the family’s black sheep. Considered pretty much useless (though of course she is the most sensible and capable of the lot of them).

Things went along fine for a while, but then they started having money troubles. They had to let out their big country estate and move, but Anne gets to stay behind for a while to help out her married sister, Mary, who is a hypochondriac and is pretty much useless.

This is where the story gets a little more interesting, because the naval officer who rents their estate is married to Frederick’s sister, and F. comes to visit the area and stays with Mary’s neighbors and close friends. He is looking to be married but doesn’t want anything to do with Anne and her weak, easily swayed personality. He does like the neighbor girls, though.

My reaction: It really isn’t that bad. I’m not a huge fan of pure romances, but I still love to root for love. I’m not sure what I think about Anne. I think she reminds me a little of myself (though I have to say I am better off). I just want her to get tough and put herself out there–stand up for herself–and I get a little angry when she just blushes, looks away and stays silent, which probably correlates to the times I’ve done the same. So if I don’t like Anne, it is partly because I don’t like that meekness in myself. I hope she grows beyond it, just as I am working to. Come on, Anne, stand up for yourself–go after what you really want! (I have a feeling this will not be the last time I yell this at her.)

But I’d say it’s a good start. Persuasion is persuading me to its side.

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