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See, I read books too.

May 5, 2009

This week, I took a break from the epic fantasy series I’ve been reading — Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series — to dive into Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

During the first part of the book, I had mixed feelings.

I love, love, love Pride and Prejudice. I was fortunate enough to be forced into watching the BBC miniseries, which lead me to reading the source material. And, man, I love Colin Firth. But the character of Mr. Darcy is dreamy in almost any fashion. So I was excited to tackle another one of Austen’s novels; this time, one I knew little about.

Persuasion was a rather quick read. I finished it in about a week, and for me, that’s pretty speedy. But at first, I struggled with immersing myself in the text. Possibly because most of the story is internal to the lead character, Anne, who lives such a sad life in the beginning. The people in her family are selfish and cruel to her, and she seems to accept this as the status quo.

As the book goes on, the narrative moves out of Anne’s head and into the world, much like Anne herself does. During this transition, I realized why I had struggled so much with the first part of the book. This is not a first person narrative, but it feels very much like one. Unlike most first person narratives, however, having the story told by Anne doesn’t allow the reader to hear other people’s dialog and interpret it. It doesn”t give the reader a sense of the other characters. I had trouble with this because it felt very claustrophobic and confining. I’m not criticizing Austen’s choice. In fact, I think it’s very powerful. It helps the reader feel the same relief as Anne as she decides to find her own voice and venture out in the world.

In true Austen style, there are “twists” near the end of the story, although finding out Captain Wentworth’s possible rival, Mr. Elliot, is not a good man was not surprising. And in the end, karma wins with the good characters getting their happily ever after and the bad…well, not so much.

Even though Persuasion didn’t compel me in the same way with as Pride and Prejudice had, the love letter Captain Wentworth leaves Anne near the end of the novel rivaled P&P’s ability to make the ladies swoon. This one sentence is unforgettable:

You pierce my soul.

Those words still make my heart go pitter-patter and make reading this novel entirely worth it.

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