Monday, January 26, 2015

Some Readers May Need More Persuading

PersuasionPersuasion by Jane Austen
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Talk about persuasion! In Jane Austen's Persuasion our hero and heroine are neither interesting nor do they have an obvious magnetic attraction for one another. As readers we always knew they'd get together in the end, and yet we're still glad they do. That's the power of Jane Austen's persuasion!

Unlike in some of Austen's better work, there is a twist, but not much of a triangle. And I felt the twist to be more Bronte-esque, as in the revealing of a horrible secret. Persuasion lacks a complicated plot, and what it does have doesn't come even remotely close to that of Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. There's plenty of irritating busybodies, ala Emma, but Austen thankfully refrained from making them too irritating. No, here there is a good balance of silly characters and solid salts-of-the-earth.

On a personal note, I found it refreshing to read so much about the navy in this book. During the Napoleonic Wars, in which Britain fought France over two decades, their superior navy was an integral part of their eventual success. Some of Austen's books are meant to take place during this tumultuous time and yet the war is hardly ever mentioned. Occasionally the female characters will fawn over some officer or other, but that's about it. In Persuasion, a naval captain is our heroine's love interest, an admiral takes lodging at her stately home and numerous other gentlemen of the navy fill out the periphery. Heck, a ship or two is even referred by name! I don't demand, or even think a book whose focus is meant to be on women finding love should be all about what the men are doing during a war, but it's nice to see that the women at least realize their country is at war, as it's nice to see Austen was not completely insensible of it either. It is quite correct that she should devote the bulk of her work to describing the home front war women of her society fought...the war to conquer a suitable man.

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