If you’ve been following, we have been reading Persuasion along with Eva at the Paperback Princess. This is a favorite reread for Eva and a first time read for Holly and myself thanks to the Roofbeam Reader 2015 TBR Challenge. Spoilers ahead-though as this book was published 1818 so if we ruin it for you I have to say #sorrynotsorry. Here’s a link to our thoughts on the first third and middle if you want to catch up!
I loved Persuasion in the end! I almost wish I’d read it sooner, but I had so much fun reading it this way I’m glad I waited.
Eva: It was still great reading it this time. I think it’s more enjoyable re-reading it because you know the major plot points but you forget the details. So as you’re reading it, you know more what to look for. I think that all of JA’s work improves on re-reading.
As for the story, the action has all moved on to Bath. Anne is now staying with with her father Sir Walter and her total poop of a sister Elizabeth. Mrs. Clay just can’t find her way to her own home and Mr. Elliot is around all the time. Even whiny Mary finds a way to get herself to Bath because she can’t stand thinking that she’s missing out on the fun!
Anne comes to learn that a very dear friend from school is living in Bath for her health. Poor Mrs. Smith – she thought she married well, but her husband died in debt and she’s now nearly friendless and only goes out to the waters. Though Sir Walter of course looks down on this connection, it doesn’t stop our kind Anne from visiting her friend often. Mrs. Russell is in Bath as well and is hoping for Anne to make a match with Mr. Elliott about as strongly as she wished against Wentworth in the past.
Everyone seems to think Mr. Elliott is about to propose to Anne-I was expecting it while thinking of Lizzy Bennet adamantly refusing Mr. Collins. I was wondering how Anne could talk her way out from someone she is so clearly not interested in while still being perhaps the kindest character ever. Then she goes to see her friend Mrs. Smith who congratulates her on the presumed match. When Anne explains that this marriage will never happen Mrs. Smith comes clean in a surprising rush! Mr. Elliott not only led her poor husband into financial ruin be can’t be bothered to help Mrs. Smith claim what inheritance she may yet receive.
Holly: I thought the scene with Mrs. Smith was a little weird – she goes from being convinced her friend is going to marry Mr. Elliot to sharing all the details about his shadiness. I mean, I get that in her situation she didn’t think it was worth sharing – but again, this whole story exists because people talked young Anne out of an engagement, yet Mrs. Smith can’t make an effort to talk Anne out of this one? It’s not as if she had a lot to lose by speaking up!
Then Eva, wisely pointed out that yes, there is still a lot for Mrs. Smith to lose, perhaps: Mrs Smith had her own, rather desperate, reasons for letting Anne marry Mr. Elliot. Today, yes what Mrs. Smith almost did would be unforgivable, but you have to try and read it from the perspective of the time. Mrs. Smith has no options – she is a widow with lots of debts and no way to get the money that is rightfully hers because of her gender. She will do almost anything to change that. JA writes often about there being nothing worse than a poor woman.
Point taken, eh?
Anyway, there is an amazing scene after that where Wentworth overhears Anne talking to his friend, and he hands her a hastily written letter on his way out.
Eva: Um, that letter that Wentworth writes? It’s up there with “you must allow me to tell you how I ardently I admire and love you.”
Holly: Half-agony, half-hope – pretty much sums up the entire experience of reading this book (even if you know that they’ll ultimately get together!).
We don’t learn too much about what happens with Sir Walter and Elizabeth, but who cares?
Eva: I do think Austen left Elizabeth and Sir Walter to sort their own shit out because they are horrible and don’t deserve a proper ending.
In summary we all agree, Jane Austen is the bomb.