A Musing: Persuasion

I’ve changed my mind about Jane Austen.

I used to feel like this.

but now I feel like this!

I thoroughly enjoyed Persuasion. What really helped me was reading this quote from Virginia Woolf:

of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness

(from A Room of One’s Own)

Sure, the tension between Anne and Wentworth was excruciating, and oh! how my heart fluttered at the…well, I won’t give it away. But, I was underwhelmed (and a little mad) when I read the ending. I wanted Austen to give it to all those phony so-and-sos. Then, I read that quote and re-read the ending, and found out that she did. She’s sly, and has much to say that isn’t evident at first blush. You might just miss it if you stick to the surface (and I’m sure many people do).

The other thing that thrilled me was learning about free indirect speech. Wallace brought it up during the Unputdownables read-a-long and I, English Major That I Was, had never heard of it! Move over James Joyce, Jane Austen was doing this in the early 1800s. Here’s an example:

How Anne’s more rigid requisitions might have been taken, is of little consequence. Lady Russell’s had no success at all–could not be put up with–were not to be borne. ‘What! Every comfort of life knocked off! Journeys, London, servants, horses, table,–contractions and restrictions every where. To live no longer with the decencies even of a private gentleman! No, he would sooner quit Kellynch-hall at once, than remain in it on such disgraceful terms.

(Ch.2.)
Fascinating!

I also loved all of the playing around with the word persuasion. It’s not a cut and dry thing where being persuaded is good or bad (just like being “sure” of your affections, or “knowing” your mind, or being of a certain class). Austen does not  make it that easy (and I just love authors that do not make it that easy).

Some say that this is a most atypical Austen novel, and here I had to go liking it so much. Now I have to go read them all and find out for myself!

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13 comments

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  2. Risa

    This one and Sense and Sensibility are my favourites of the five I have read. I enjoy the understated-ness of Persuasion very much! Glad you’ve changed your mind about Austen…she truly is (was) a great writer! 😀

  3. Melody @ Fingers & Prose

    I’m so glad you found something to appreciate! I know that many people simply love the romance, or just adore the wit, and I think it’s great that she can appreciated on so many levels. It’s the subtlety and the layers that does it for me. I do love the wit, but the romance is pretty back-burner in my mind. My favorite is seeing past the surface and discovering how many different things she is saying.

    • jackiemania

      I also think it’s crazy how James Joyce is lauded for his groundbreaking prose, and here is Jane Austen over 100 years before doing something so fresh and almost out of nowhere! I have to read a biography next to get a sense of what makes her tick.

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  7. Francesca Thomas

    I have just read your review of Persuasion. Just like you, I was not familiar with Jane’s books – except P&P – and that was only because I had to read it for High school. I tried to read Emma for Spin Number 9. I hated it!!!! So I tried something else. I LOVED Persuasion. I can so relate to Anne. She and I have so many things in common!!! You might like to read my review..
    http://classicsclubchallenge.blogspot.ca/2015/04/spin-substitiute-persuasion-by-jane.html

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