Persuasion Read Along Week 1

9

August 15, 2012 by Heidi

Austen in August Read Along

Hello everyone!  Misty gave us a lot of leeway as to how we wanted to approach the questions for this read along, and for me I’m going to be splitting my responses into three posts so that I can respond as I go along.  So happy to be doing a read along for a book I’m sure I’m going to love!  Without further ado, I’m going to jump into the entry questions and those referring to the first few chapters of Persuasion:

Quick getting to know you Qs:

Was Persuasion the first Austen book you read?

Emma was actually the first Jane Austen book that I read.  I always adored Emma growing up, which is funny to me as an adult because I abhor so many of the qualities of her character (namely her stuck-up nosiness and desire to stick her fingers into everyone else’s business).  Emma’s no longer my favorite Austen, but it’ll always hold a place in my heart.

Is this the first time you’ve read Persuasion?

Ish.  I know I at least started it when I was probably 14-15, but I honestly don’t remember finishing it.  I think I was too young and impatient at the time to really appreciate it, but clearly now that I am 27 and haggard, I will easily attach myself to Anne.

How many other Austen books have you read?

Just Emma and Pride and Prejudice.  I really need to read the others (and not just watch the BBC adaptations as I am wont to do).  I did download the audio of S&S when it was on Sync this summer, so I will maybe give it a listen.

Will you read more of them/reread them?

Yes!  I really want to reread P&P, and would like to read S&S in particular.

 
BEGINNING  (chapters 1-7)
  • What are your initial impressions of the story? Do you like the set-up for the world and the conflicts? Did you find any of it hard to understand or relate to?

This is where I can see myself not having gotten past the first few chapters when I was younger, luckily, I have a much better understanding now of the Regency era, and circumstances that could arise in these types of families.  Do all of Austen’s main family’s suffer from somewhat embarrassing money troubles?  I suppose it makes sense that this would be a pretty wrote conflict at the time, and it provided with a convenient means for the characters to all be shuffled into place.

I do like the set up, and find the relationship dynamics between Anne and her family quite interesting (more on that later).  I very much like that this is a story with an older protagonist who has already screwed things up and has left the wound festering for years, my heart is already breaking for Anne before we even have to see Captain Wentworth.

I also really like that it was Anne who spurned Wentworth, and not the other way around.  Because we’re seeing the story from Anne’s point of view, we can understand her reasoning and pity her, but we also get to cheer for Wentworth, who is at no fault in the given situation.

  • What are your impressions of the characters so far? Especially in regards to Anne, who is considered quite a bit different from other Austen heroines (besides being the oldest, she’s had love and let it go, and now has had years to reflect on that).

How insufferable is Mary?  She annoys me to no end, though honestly Elizabeth only seems better in that we don’t have to hear so much from her.  It’s no wonder to me that Anne let herself be guided by her family who seem rather pushy and overbearing when she herself seems like someone who doesn’t want to make waves.  With sisters like that, I’m surprised Anne came out so sweet!  I do feel like this is a different dynamic than you see between sisters in P&P or S&S.

I love that Anne is an older character, and I think because she has loved and let it go, she is likely easier to identify with than Austen’s other heroines.  Let’s face it, these days few among us marry young and/or marry our first loves, many of us experience heartbreak in ways that Anne can relate to, and as such I’m not surprised to see Persuasion listed as the favorite Austen book of the majority of my bookish friends.

  • Do you think Anne was right to have yielded to the pressure of those close to her – to have been “persuaded” – not to accept Wentworth’s first proposal?

Well, of course the romantic in me wants to scream ‘of course not’, but the realist in me can’t blame the girl.  As I said, I think that those around her can be very pushy (though goodhearted).  It’s hard to go against the people who love you and only want what’s best for you when they tell you that something will be a vast mistake and ruin you.  I feel like Anne is too logical to fling caution to the wind, and despite her love for Wentworth had to step back and see that those around her made valid points.  It’s easier to believe  at 19 that something better is right around the corner, but it is obvious she never gave up Wentworth in her heart.

  • What do you make of Anne’s family (and extended family, including Lady Russell), and her place among them? How do the people in Anne’s life treat her, and what was your reaction to that?

Anne’s family obviously cares for her, but they also seem to treat her as the good child.  That being the one who needs protection and guidance, and cannot be trusted to make any important decisions about anything.  She’s clearly a middle child with neither the authority of the eldest, nor the spoiled nature of the baby.  I believe they see Anne as part of their support, particularly Lady Russell and Mary.  Yes, of course they love Anne and want her to be happy, but they are also selfish in their desires for her and want her kept close for their own benefits.  Mary, unaware of Anne’s previous attachment to Wentworth is particularly aloof and blind to her sister’s feelings, but given her manner I am not surprised Anne hasn’t said anything to her, it would surely only cause Anne more grief and discomfort.

  • Discuss Anne’s first few meetings with Wentworth, or Wentworth’s entry into the story in general.

At the close of Chapter Seven, Anne has just had her first re-meeting with Wentworth, and yes, I highlighted the crap out of that chapter.  I feel so sorry for her getting the barest of acknowledgement from this man that she’s thought about for years.  I am sure she’s built up the memory of him in her head to where he seems even more perfect than he did when she was 19, while she simultaneously drove herself down for refusing him.  She has to deal with the self consciousness that she is no longer the beauty she once was, though I am very much wondering what Wentworth really meant by his comment about her being nearly unrecognizable.

I feel incredibly bad for Wentworth as well, who is now ready to settle down and marry, and would probably be happy to forget about his former relationship with Anne and lower his standards a bit to find an amiable enough girl.  Of course, with the woman who broke his heart in the neighborhood, he’s unlikely to be able to forget the qualities in her that he admired that others fail to posses, but I also wonder how much of him just wants to rub his success in her face–at least that’s what would want to do in his situation.

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9 comments »

  1. VeganYANerds says:

    I don’t think I’ve read Persuasion, in fact I’m pretty sure I haven’t. I’m sure I read at least one of her novels for school, probably Emma!

    Also I laughed out loud at “but clearly now that I am 27 and haggard” :p

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! I’ve waited all day to say it :)

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks so much, Mandee! Though I have to admit I wrote this post not thinking that it’d go out on my birhtday–I’m now officially 28 and haggard. :D

  2. Happy Birthday Heidi! I’m kind of glad that I read this first when I was 21 and decrepit because I really related to it. I think Captain Wentworth takes out some of his bitterness and frustration about her decision for sure. He’s pretty angry at her in the beginning of this book, IMO. In my mind, he doesn’t even think he loves her anymore. Poor Anne. She suffers so much in this book, but she holds her head high.

    I’m not sure that her father and sister really DO have her best interests at heart, LOL. Lady Russell does though. I completely agree with you about Anne’s decision. It was heartbreaking, but it just wasn’t the right time for them (although they didn’t know that). Maybe she shouldn’t have placed so much weight on her family’s opinion but I think that ultimately it was probably the right decision.

    I’m looking forward to all your Persuasion posts!!

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Catie! Yeah, I just got to the point yesterday when I think he realizes that maybe he doesn’t hate Anne. The more time I get to spend reading about Wentworth the more I feel like I understand him better from the first part of this book. I agree about her father and sister, but THEY certainly think they have her best interests at heart. Like I said, I certainly can’t blame her for the decision she made at the time.

  3. When I had a class on Austen, Persuasion wasn’t even close to the favorite. We did read it at the very end of the year, however, so that could have been part of the reason for it. I’m not sure. It’s definitely one of the better Austen books, however. It is nice to be reading a book with an older protagonist than the teen fare I’ve mostly been reading lately. I agree with a lot of what you said about Anne – she’s definitely a more realistic Austen heroine. Although I have a much more negative opinion of her family than you do! It was hard for me to see any good in them so far. I, too, am eager to see more interactions between Wentworth and Anne and figure out what he really thinks about her after 8 years.

    • Heidi says:

      Haha, I agree! I’ve read so much YA this year, that it is so incredibly refreshing to read about an adult character. I think I’ve been trying to give her family the benefit of the doubt and not hate them outright, but I can certainly see how people would think negatively of them.

  4. LOVE!!!! Persuasion! Wish I could participate in the read-a-long but I don’t have the time at the moment. Enjoyed your thoughts. Can’t wait to see what you think the further you get into it! Seems to me that Jane Austen always has an obnixous character in her books (Lydia from P&P, Mary from Persuasion, Isabella Thorpe from NA…etc).

    Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know

    • Heidi says:

      I think you’re right! I was totally zoning my hatred of Mary, and realized that it is quite similar to my feelings about Lydia in P&P. =)

      I just don’t understand how Anne doesn’t strangle Mary at times, I certainly would. But then it’s probably a good thing I don’t live in Regency England.

      This readalong has been a lot of fun so far! I’ve split the reading of this one up over three weeks, so it hasn’t been a chore, but I can certainly understand being too busy.

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