Regular readers of this blog have long heard me wax on and on about my love for Jane Austen’s last novel, PERSUASION. It’s my favorite of all the Austens. I own about seven different editions of the novel, and three (count ‘em) three versions of BBC movies made from the novel. I even have the 1970s one, where Anne Elliot looks like this:
My love, she is deep as the ocean.
So why, oh why do I love Persuasion so much? What is its hold on me? Do I prefer Captain Wentworth to Mr. Darcy? (Um, jury’s out, actually). Anne Elliot to Emma Woodhouse (okay, yes on that one, definitely). The follies of Sir Walter and Mary Musgrove to those of Mrs. Dashwood and Lucy Stone Steele (nice catch, JJ)? (Really, can there ever be too much of a good thing?)
I admit, (as did one Elizabeth Bennett, once upon a time) that I did not always love this novel as I do now. When I was in high school, and discovering Austen for the first time, I enjoyed the brash and outspoken charms of Elizabeth to Anne’s soft silence. I didn’t understand how the hell she put up with her horrid family. But as I got older, I began to appreciate the book more and more, until eventually, it beat out Pride & Prejudice in my heart.
How do I love Persuasion? Let me count the ways:
1. I love that Persuasion is such a mature novel. Even in modern romance, I’ve always been a sucker for a reunion story, and Persuasion is the pinnacle of all reunion stories!
2. I love the psychological complexity of the main characters and their love story. I love the skill in which Austen arranges their complex dance. You think that Darcy gives smoldering glances? Re-read Persuasion sometime. The characters hardly ever speak to each other, and yet, if you read carefully, you see that they are at every moment aware of one another. Entire conversations with other people revolve around sharing the smallest fact (usually meant to injure) with the person they really, really want to be talking to.
3. I love the secondary characters. Austen often includes fantastic secondary characters in her stories, but in Persuasion, she really outdoes herself. I adore the Crofts, especially. In most Austens, you see an example of a happy, equal marriage for the main characters to aspire to (The Gardiners in P&P) but in the Crofts, you see a real insight into their love story. The Musgroves and the other Navy men are similarly well-drawn.
4. Two words: The. Letter. Oh wow, y’all, the letter. The letter, the letter, the letter. The letter might be one of the most favorite single pages in all of literature. Austen men give good letter, as any fan of Pride & Prejudice knows (heck, even Willoughby’s horrific letter is a work of art for its purposes), but no one — no one– writes a letter like Frederick Wentworth. “You pierce my soul…” I tell you, I never read that letter without crying. I never watch the scene with the letter in any of my versions of the movie without crying (even in the most recent one, where they totally screw up the whole POINT of the letter and send Anne on some bizarre marathon through the streets of Bath…)
5. And I love this reason most of all:
Children’s: Young Adult
Author of the Secret Society Girl series and Rampant Diana Peterfreund’s FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, a post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, to Kristin Daly at Balzer & Bray, in a good deal, for publication in 2011, by Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency (NA).
Excited? I sure am!