BR: ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen

Anne Elliot, the protagonist of ‘Persuasion’, is the oldest Austen heroine by far, at the ripe old age of 27. She was persuaded by her mentor to reject the proposal of her first love and has regretted it ever since. When they are thrown together years later, she finds that he still resents her dismissal and must watch as he becomes entangled with someone else, with the ever-growing fear that happiness will never be hers. This was certainly an interesting premise, and ‘Persuasion’ has been recommended to me by several people, yet it is probably my least favourite Austen novel (the only one I haven’t read is ‘Mansfield Park’).

There were still many enjoyable aspects to the book. I liked the descriptions of the vain Sir Walter, whose room is full of mirrors, and Anne’s selfish sister Mary, who is continually convinced that she is being ill-used by others. Captain Wentworth’s constancy to Anne and final letter to her were also very romantic. As was only to be expected, the text was sprinkled with witty and often scathing remarks from the narrator, such as this description of a very one-sided conversation: ‘minutiae which, even with every advantage of taste and delicacy good Mrs. Musgrove could not give, could be properly interesting only to the principals.’ 

I know that ‘Persuasion’ is supposed to be more serious in tone and subject matter, perhaps because it was written towards the end of Jane Austen’s life, but I cannot help but feel that it does not have the charm of books such as ‘Emma’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’. In these novels almost all of the characters have amusing quirks or endearing features, yet in ‘Persuasion’ I found that there was nothing particularly memorable about several members of the supporting cast, such as the Miss Musgroves and the Harvilles. Even the more entertaining characters like Sir Walter and Elizabeth were rather one-dimensional. Captain Wentworth was not my favourite hero – he was clearly very noble and loyal but I never really got a feel for his personality. Anne was a pretty bland heroine, so flawless that her thoughts alone were ‘almost enough to spread purification and perfume all the way‘. I realise that I was supposed to feel sympathy for the crippled Mrs Smith but her air of martyrdom just irritated me.

I understand that this review is quite harsh but it is only because I was disappointed. I admit that the first time I read ‘Northanger Abbey’, I did not enjoy it at all, but after returning to it years later it went up hugely in my estimation. Perhaps I will give it a few years and a re-read will persuade me to change my opinion in this case, too.

Bookshelf Tour

I think that looking at someone’s bookshelves can tell you a lot about their personality so I hope you enjoy this small insight into mine!

Second hand crime

I have a bit of a weakness for both crime and second hand books, so this is where my guilty pleasures usually end up.

Highlights: PD James is one of my favourite authors and I strongly recommend her if you’re looking for either crime or literary fiction. ‘Good Girls Don’t Die’ is one of the best crime novels I’ve read this year – read my review to find out more.

Agatha Christie

I went through a phase a few years ago where I was slightly obsessed with Agatha Christie. I really like these editions of the books as they are very compact and look lovely on the shelf together, but sadly as my collection has grown they remain hidden behind the books pictured above.

Highlights: ‘Death on the Nile’ is a deserved classic and ‘The ABC Murders’ is very compelling too, with an intriguing concept. I was a little bit disappointed by ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ because the author uses the same trick as she did in ‘Endless Night’, which I read first.

Random

This shelf is a bit random – I don’t really know how to describe it! There is a mixture of YA and adult books and it has a few more non-fiction books than the other shelves.

Highlights: ‘Clara’s War’ is the fascinating memoir of a Holocaust survivor. It is comprised of entries from Clara’s diary and details she has written in retrospect, which make an interesting combination. ‘Quiet’ is a must-read for any introverts.

YA

This shelf is mainly YA with a few adult books. A lot of these novels are set in foreign countries and different time periods.

Highlights: Obviously I love the works of Helen Grant (see interview). ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ is a very intelligent and gripping mystery from the perspective of a woman with dementia.

Classics

Originally this was the place where I put all my classic books but I appear to be running out of space so I might have to relocate some of them. There’s a nice progression from right to left as I got more confident and ambitious in my reading material.

Highlights: There are quite a few books to choose from here but if I had to a pick a top three, it would be ‘The God of Small Things’, ‘The Woodlanders’ and ‘Cider With Rosie.’ I also enjoy anything by Jane Austen or John Steinbeck.

Fantasy

This shelf contains mostly children’s books, several of which are fantasies. Although this is no longer one of my favourite genres, I really enjoyed it as a child. The shelf also contains my aborted attempt at collecting all the books in the ‘Roman Mysteries’ series.

Highlights: When I was younger I loved the ‘Molly Moon’ series and ‘Eragon’ – the latter particularly should be worth a re-visit. ‘The 10pm Question’ is also a very underrated book about a boy who is a bit of a worrier.

Poetry

This is a very small shelf near my desk, consisting of books which I only dip into now and again and don’t need to read in chronological order: poetry, humour and German books when I feel like being intellectual!

Highlights ‘How Not to Write a Novel’ has some great examples of bad writing which made me laugh out loud. Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘The World’s Wife’ is an excellent collection of poems and very readable.