Monday, 1 November 2010

Re-reading Persuasion

To my mind Persuasion is the most perfect novel. At just over 250 pages it can be read over a weekend but the haunting melancholy feel haunts you for days afterwards. It is a happy novel, too. It is about second chances and mistakes rectified.

Austen described Anne Elliot as 'almost too good for me' and Anne is indeed good, but without the annoying passivity of Fanny Price from Mansfield Park. Anne is older, wiser and damaged by the error of judgement she made eight years before in refusing to marry Captain Wentworth. My favourite scene from Persuasion is when Anne is walking on the Cobb at Lyme and a stranger turns to admire her regained beauty (the stranger, of course, turns out to be Mr Elliot).

Can you imagine any of Austen's heroes wearing a hooped petticoat for a joke?! Clarence Hervey does in Belinda in order to settle a bet with the gloriously bitchy Lady Delacour and it is the interplay between these two which make the novel so enjoyable.

Belinda Portman, beautiful, young, kind-hearted and naive is sent by her Aunt Stanhope (nicknamed 'catchmaker matchmaker') to stay with Lady Delacour in London with a view to landing a wealthy husband. Lady Delacour 'one of the most dissipated women in London' is vain, spendthrift, dazzling and witty in public and languid, petulant and weary in private. She is also hiding a breast wound she received in a duel which she believes will kill her.

One would think that under the guidance of Lady Delacour, Belinda would become hopelessly lost, but in fact the opposite is true. Though naive, Belinda is not short of common sense and she is attracted to a peaceable domesticity rather than the unhinged life of Lady Delacour. The two women eventually become close and loyal friends and Belinda falls in love with the charming Clarence Hervey.
I really want to re-read another Austen novel, now - so much for making plans! Sense and Sensibility I think.

14 comments:

Audrey said...

And now I want to read Belinda! :)

lyn said...

I agree with you about Persuasion. It's one of my favourite novels, I've read it so often. And now, you've inspired me to buy Belinda so I need to get on to that enticing novel very very soon.

irisonbooks said...

I agree with you, Persuasion is definitely the perfect novel. I have to reread it soon, I keep saying that. And like the comments above me, I'd love to read Belinda now :) Although your previous posts had already convinced me that I should.

Steph said...

This is one of Austen's books that I haven't read! I have been purposely putting it off because I can't stand the thought of not having a new Austen waiting for me to read... I know so many people love this one so I think I'm going to save it for last.

Carolyn said...

I'm reading Emma right now and really enjoying it (especially the Christmas Eve party and Mr. Elton's jolting carriage proposal!), so may have to read Persuasion again soon just to finally settle the debate about which of those two I like best.

I've also been reading Belinda lately and although there's more glamour, Austen is still funnier and sweeter.

Mystica said...

I must go back to Persuasion again. It has been far too long.

Jillian said...

I'm not a huge Austen fan. (I've only read P&P so far.) But this post makes me think I might connect better with some of her other work. I've been thinking S&S might be more my speed; now Persuasion sounds good too...

Thanks for sharing this! :-)

potterjotter said...

One of my all-time favourites and last week I went to Bath for the first time ever and saw all the places mentioned in the novel and recognised from various tv/film adaptations, which was a thrill for me!

Shelley said...

Persuasion: regret can live in the same heart with hope.

Dorothy W. said...

I really enjoyed Belinda. You make me want to read more Edgeworth AND Austen!

Vintage Reading said...

Audrey, I recommend a Maria Edgeworth back to back with an Austen novel!

Lyn, yes, Persuasion can be read and re-read and you find something different in it each time. Wasn't it Virgina Woolf who said that Austen's genius is so hard to pin down?

Iris, I think you get more from each re-read of Persuasion and it seems to change at different stages of your life.

Steph, you are so lucky having an unread Austen ahead of you!

Carolyn, now you've made me want to re-read Emma! I love the strawberry picking party and the truly dreadful Mrs Elton.

Mystica, I'm feeling all the Persuasion love!

Jillian, P&P isn't my favourite Austen. I would certainly try S&S or Persuasion. Do let me know what you think.

potterjotter, hope you saw Mr B's lovely book store in Bath! I've made a couple of pilgrimages there myself and walked down all the streets from the novels. Such an elegant city.

Shelley, Harold Bloom on Persuasion: Like the author, the reader becomes persuaded to wish for Anne what she still wishes for herself.

Dorothy, glad you enjoyed Belinda. Now you must re-read an Austen!

Mae said...

I LOVE Persuasion and I think I even prefer it over Pride and Prejudice. Persuasion is like an adult romance and makes P&P look like an adolescent fling. It's so much more mature and romantic in its quiet and subtle way. Anne and Captain Wentworth (and I thought Austen could NEVER top Mr. Darcy!) are simply perfect. It's very underrated.

Vintage Reading said...

Mae, I agree with you. I'm very fond of P&P but I don't think it compares with Persuasion. Captain W is almost my favourite Austen hero but I'm extremely fond of Mr Knightley from Emma!

hopeinbrazil said...

I enjoyed your comments on Persuasion because it is one of my all-time favorites. Then I enjoyed your readers comments too. Lovely!