This week I have spent time outside lounging on a blanket under a tree in the backyard reading. It has been wonderful. I used to do this in high school, but had given it up for reading in bed or in a chair. But there is just nothing that can compare to the bird song and the breeze in the leaves and a good Austen novel. It’s awesome…and very summery.
I’ve read this book several times and adore it. If you want summertime reading without too much effort, this is it!
What is there to recommend it? Flouncy people with titles, dashing sea captains (and an admiral!), silly girls, dumb boys, social climbers, and a lost love…
And, after all, isn’t it the dream of every girl that the boy she loves will stop being an idiot and express how he feels so they can get on with it…?
What I dislike: Anne’s tendency to shut her mouth and stay in the background. Granted, I am aware this was written when women were expected to be genteel and operate within the social hierarchy, but Anne is such a meek, closed thing. She takes all the crap everyone throws at her. Even the meekest person will reach the end of the line and snap at something, but never Anne. Seriously, she should be canonized…she is that saintly.
“…nor could she help fearing, on more serious reflection, that, like many other great moralists and preachers, she had been eloquent on a point in which her own conduct would ill bear examination.” (last lines of Chapter 11, Vol. 1)
Even though Anne is so mild-mannered, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t deserve love. Perhaps the dashing Captain Frederick Wentworth can pull her out of her shell?
The real thing to think about is how we are influenced by those around us–whether by action or by suggestion–and if it is to our benefit or detriment. Do those offering advice have our best interests at heart? I think about this every time I read this book because I do not for the life of me understand Lady Russell. I know she is much like a surrogate mother for Anne and therefore her opinions carry significant weight; however, I also find her quite spiteful and judgmental of all things. For example, this is said of her: “Lady Russell had only to listen composedly, and wish them happy; but internally her heart revelled in angry pleasure, in pleased contempt, that the man who at twenty-three had seemed to understand somewhat of the value of an Anne Elliot, should, eight years afterwards, be charmed by a Lousia Musgrove.” (Chapter 1, Vol. 2) How bitchy! She separates Anne and Frederick when they were younger, but when they are back together she reforms her opinions and acts “as a mother to the man who was securing the happiness” of Anne (Ch 12, Vol. 2). Can a leopard change its spots so easily? What other mischief might this woman cause? For what interests does she act? It seems as if she tries to bend the world to her vision, to her will, without caring about the lives of the other people involved in her meddling. Will she not continue to do so?
The end. Sometimes–depending on why I am reading the novel–it feels like there is a little something missing at the end. Everything just tumbles into place without any kind of adjustment for the happy couple or their friends and family; it is all too perfect…even for a novel. A “happily ever after” kind of ending when there was little threat of competition or alternate outcome. But if you are reading (and have been sucked in by the romance) chances are that this won’t even register on the radar. 🙂
So, go out and grab Persuasion. Flop down under a shady tree and read away an afternoon…