Persuasion is my most favorite Jane Austen novel. I mean, what's not to love about this story--a 'mature' heroine, past her youthful prime (though I would personally not feel past my prime at twenty-seven!), a dashing naval officer returned to Bath with his newly acquired fortune, a second chance at love for both of them . . . This is contented-sigh-happy-ending kind of stuff. Plus there is the witty repartee and a fair amount of humor and delight alongside a bit of heartache along the way.
And all packaged in Austen's brilliant prose. The woman knew just the right turn of phrase, didn't she? Reading anything by Jane Austen is like walking into a different time and place, a much smarter and more elegant time and place. Is it weird to say (and to think) how cool it would be if we all talked like the characters in a Jane Austen novel? The prose is not just witty but it is sparkling, like the fizz on a just-poured glass of champagne.
I was reading and enjoying and thought I should really share some of the passages here. Never mind that we all likely know the stories of her novels even if we have not read them (I have two as-yet-not-read Austen books on my shelves) since we all pretty much know the plots (and probably endings, too). The Elliots of Kellynch Hall have had to give up their home thanks to poor management by Mr. Elliot. He is surely one of the most smug and snobbish of fops in all of Bath, and a poor money manager.
So now the house is to be let to one Admiral Croft and has wife (she, the sister of Captain Wentworth, Anne Elliot's former love interest . . . she took bad advice and turned his proposal down). While Mr. Elliot and Anne's sister Elizabeth are off to Bath to look for a suitable residence, Anne will remain in the neighborhood and stay with her other (married) sister, Mary. If you've read Persuasion you'll know how irksome Mary can be, but as characters go, she does come in handy as the subject of some wonderful rapier sharp observations.
Mary is married to Charles Musgrove and there is a really amusing scene where Anne, ever the perfect listener, must endure Mary's criticisms of the Musgroves and vice versa.
"How was Anne to set all these matters to rights? She could do little more than listen patiently, soften every grievance, and excuse each to the other; give them all hints of the forbearance necessary between such near neighbours, and make those hints broadest which were meant for her sister's benefit."
A little teaser or two of her diplomacy--a good listener to each and a critic of none.
"'I wish you could persuade Mary not to be always fancying herself ill,' was Charles's language; and, in an unhappy mood, thus spoke Mary: 'I do believe if Charles were to see me dying, he would not think there was anything the matter with me. I am sure, Anne, if you would, you might persuade him that I really am very ill--a great deal worse than I ever own'."
"Mary's declaration was, "I hate sending the children to the Great House, though their grandmamma is always wanting to see them, for she humours and indulges them to such a degree, and gives them so much trash and sweet things, that they are sure to come back sick and cross for the rest of the day." And Mrs Musgrove took the first opportunity of being alone with Anne, to say,'Oh! Miss Anne, I cannot help wishing Mrs Charles had a little of your method with those children. They are quite different creatures with you! But to be sure, in general they are so spoilt! It is a pity you cannot put your sister in the way of managing them. They are as fine healthy children as ever were seen, poor little dears! without partiality; but Mrs Charles knows no more how they should be treated--! Bless me! how troublesome they are sometimes. I assure you, Miss Anne, it prevents my wishing to see them at our house so often as I otherwise should. I believe Mrs Charles is not quite pleased with my not inviting them oftener; but you know it is very bad to have children with one that one is obligated to be checking every moment; 'don't do this, and 'don't do that;' or that one can only keep in tolerable order by more cake than is good for them'."
Can't you just picture poor Anne sitting on the sofa next to each person getting an earful from each and not wanting to agree with any?! I'm just getting to the start of the really good part. Captain Wentworth is soon to be in the neighborhood and both his and Anne's paths are about to cross.
I might have to read more Jane Austen this year. In any case, I hope I will read many more classics. I am already contemplating what I might pick up next. At the moment I can see in my mind a book with Virginia Woolf's name on the spine . . . But first things first. Must get Anne and Frederick sorted out.