Wednesday, November 3, 2010


by Jane Austen
part of an omnibus edition with Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Persuasion.

Though the Elliot family has a decent social standing, they are much reduced when Sir Walter, through profligate spending after his wife's death, must let his house and move to smaller accommodations in Bath. Anne Elliot, the middle daughter whose wishes are usually not sought and less regarding by her elder sister and father, stays behind for a time with her good friend and surrogate mother, Lady Russell. Several years ago, Lady Russell had counseled Anne to break an engagement with a young navy officer. Now, it appears that their acquaintance may be renewed when his sister and her husband begin renting the Elliot home, Kellynch Hall.

For some time, at least since I first picked up Pride and Prejudice at age 14, I have been planning on reading all of Jane Austen's novels. Of her completed novels, I only had Persuasion left. I was a little concerned that the very last of Austen's novels would be a bit of a disappointment, especially considering my attachment - by this time a sentimental one borne of many rereadings - to Pride and Prejudice. Anne's story is very hard to compare to Elizabeth's. She is older and less decided, perhaps, in her opinions. If I had to pick two words to describe Anne, it would be "constant," followed closely by "longsuffering" to put up with her sisters and father as she does. While Elizabeth would have made pointed and witty comments regarding the foibles of some of Anne's friends and family, the narrator must make these remarks and leave Anne to being polite even while she internally groans at their behavior. My prior reading had already familiarized me with the primary events of the plot, but as always the wry and witty narrative voice carries the most attraction for me, perhaps even above that of the cast of characters. While I cannot yet say that Persuasion supersedes Pride and Prejudice as my favorite of Jane Austen's novels, I surmise that a few rereadings will bring the two books closer together in my estimation.

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