I love it when a book leaves some sort of definite impression on me. Good or bad, love it or hate it, I like finishing a book and knowing exactly how I felt about it. Pride and Prejudice: lovely. Everything is Illuminated: hauntingly beautiful. Atonement: hateful waste of time. These levels of “either gets a thumbs-up or thumbs-down” reviewing make my job easy and pleasant. It’s that middle ground, the midway-side-thumb, “kinda sorta” ratings that give me trouble and, unfortunately, Persuasion by Jane Austen falls somewhere in the vagueness of “the middle.”
Anne Elliot is Austen’s typical young, empowered, and intelligent main character. She’s unfortunately surrounded by idiots, (but then again, aren’t we all?) yet these not-so-likable peers and relations are simply shallow and self-involved, not villainous enough to sour the overall feeling of the story. I’d have to say that almost everything about the story felt “vanilla” to me, insomuch as they lacked the passion I expected. In truth, the whole story seemed rather distant to me; the inner workings of the heart and mind which have been so prevalent and compelling in Austen’s other works are all but absent in Persuasion. I suppose I cannot help but compare Persuasion with Pride and Prejudice, which I consider to be a literary masterpiece. My life felt like a Regency Era rollercoaster while reading Pride and Prejudice, as I think was the intended effect. Austen wanted readers to wrestle with our feelings towards Mr. Darcy, just as Elizabeth did, and to remain uncertain as to the desired outcome until the very end. Persuasion reunites Anne with Captain Wentworth after breaking her engagement to him eight years earlier based on the persuasion from her family, not lack of affection. This gives plenty of room for drama and feelings but I couldn’t help but notice the lack of both throughout the story. There was no rollercoaster of emotion; I kept reading in order to find out what would happen, not because I was emotionally invested in any way.
All that being said, I can’t give it a thumbs-down because the ending of this novel contains the most beautiful love letter I have ever read. I don’t want to ruin any part of the story for you, but without mucking through the rest of the novel, the love letter would seem simply poetic, but would lack all the significance of the love-inspired motivation and meaning. Although I can’t say I loved Persuasion, I think everyone everywhere should tolerate the boring 99% of this novel just so you can truly understand and appreciate that love letter, the 1% of this novel that makes it 100% worth the time.
I have a couple more reviews that I should be able to get out this week, including Lord of the Flies and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and in the meantime I’m reading Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. I’d love to hear any input anyone has, and I encourage everyone to read along and stay tuned for more!