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A Basic Gal’s Guide to Jane Austen: Persuasion

My affinity for Ugg boots and North Face jackets. How excited I get each fall when pumpkin spice lattes arrive at Starbucks. I have seen every episode of Sex and the City backwards and forwards at least 23 times over. These are all symptoms of what is known in today’s world as “being basic.” Where some might see it as a flaw, I openly embrace my basicness as FLAWLESSNESS.

So for the next few months, I am going to take it back to an author that a basic girl like myself loves to love — Jane Austen. Because at the end of the day…who isn’t looking for their Mr. Darcy?

In popular culture, her work has truly taken on a life of its own. Movie versions (some better than others) of all of her works. Stories written as a play on her original writings (see: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). Contemporary movies loosely based on her books (Clueless = Emma). My favorite Austen sub-genre lately are books and movies about people’s fascination with Jane Austen.

cover for Jane Austen Book Club

That’s why I am doing my own version of The Jane Austen Book Club. Yes — I took my inspiration from a romantic comedy (it was a book first). Just chalk it up to another symptom of my basic status. I will read one Austen book a month for six months so I can read all of her major novels. In random order, the first book is…Persuasion. So let’s dive in, basic girl style.

This is the last novel fully completed by Austen, and it was published shortly after her death. There is a lot going on in this book (a grand family forced to rent their estate because they are out of money, a beautiful trip to Bath that ends with a character’s concussion and months long recovery process, a hypochondriac wife who was her husband’s second choice), but let’s take a look at the part that matters most to me (and all basic girls out there): the love story.

Here’s a little synopsis: the main character, Anne Elliot, fell in love with Frederick Wentworth when she was 19. The two were then engaged. But, as you will, Anne was promptly talked out of marrying him by her father, sister and close family friend because they didn’t feel like he was good enough (i.e. not rich enough and no real family name).

The book takes place seven years later, and the two haven’t seen each other since the break-up. When they meet again, Frederick is now an accomplished captain who has made a good bit of money. It appears to the reader as if Anne missed the boat on that one. But then their lives are woven together and their interactions lead them to play a very coy game of will they or won’t they get back together. Both are wiser with age, and neither is willing to wear their heart on their sleeve. Frederick seems stoic toward her, and for a long time keeps Anne at arms length. Anne knows the damage she did in the past, and does not try to engage Fredrick in any sort of romantic way.

cover for Jane Austen Collection DVD

I had a pit in my stomach for a good chunk of the book because even though I knew the ending (it’s Austen, y’all), I found myself nervous that they were going to be ships in the night and let love pass them by again. But they do finally admit their feelings to each other, because in Austen’s world, the truth always reveals itself eventually.

At first I was a little hard on Anne for letting herself be swayed by her family and friends to break up with Captain Wentworth. But think back to when you were a teenager. If those you knew best told you they didn’t like your significant other, it probably made you think twice about the relationship. Can we really blame Anne for being young and naïve and unable to stand up for love? I don’t think so. We were all young and naïve once.  And in some cases, you are saved from making a mistake. But not when it comes to giving up the dashing Wentworth. Geez, Anne.

One thing I didn’t like about this book is that I found myself wanting to know more about their original relationship. For all the lead up we get to the question of if they will get back together, I want to know more about their past. Did they call it puppy love? Oh, I guess we’ll never know.

Overall, I liked Persuasion. I have a feeling though it will not be my favorite of her novels (spoiler: I read Pride and Prejudice and Emma many moons ago). But since it went first, right now — it sits at number 1 in the rankings! Congratulations, Persuasion!

Allison’s Ranking of Jane Austen Novels

1. Persuasion

Could Austen have written this book today? Absolutely! The idea of losing love and getting the chance to rekindle it years later will always be timely. However, I will say that today, the likelihood of going seven years without knowing what’s going on with an ex is pretty much non-existent. Where video killed the radio star, social media has killed the ability to not know what is happening with your exes.

Stay tuned! Next month I’ll take a look at what is bound to be Austen’s most left-field book: Northanger Abbey.

Have you read Persuasion? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!

-Allison C.

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