#PersuasionReadalong – Chapters 17-24

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!

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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.

 

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#PersuasionReadalong – Chapters 1-8

In case you missed it, Amanda and I are reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion for the first time as part of the 2015 TBR Challenge, and we’re having a read-along with Eva at The Paperback Princess, because she loves it and because she’s lovely and funny.

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It’s a relatively short novel (which means you have plenty of time to catch up and join us!) and we’re discussing the book in three parts. Today: Chapters 1-8, in which Anne Elliot ends up in the most awkward of circumstances.

But first, let’s back up a second. The novel opens with Sir Walter Elliot studying the Baronetage (basically Who’s Who in English Nobility) and admiring the listing with himself and his family – his deceased wife Elizabeth, and his daughters, Elizabeth (age 29, mistress of her father’s household, and a stone cold bitch – thanks to Eva for that perfect descriptor), Anne (our heroine, age 27), and Mary (age 23, a drama queen, and the only one married of the three).

Sir Walter Elliot, we quickly learn, is an idiot, and without his wife’s good judgment and influence, their estate at Kellynch Hall is falling apart. “While Lady Elliot lived, there had been method, moderation, and economy, which had just kept him within his income; but with her had died all such right-mindedness, and from that period he had been constantly exceeding it.”

The financial troubles have reached a crisis point, and so family friend Lady Russell, and lawyer Mr. Shepard, talk Sir Walter into leasing the estate (“he would never condescend to sell”). Despite Sir Walter’s objections to the Navy as an institution “as being the means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their fathers and grandfathers never dreamt of,” Mr. Shepard finds an acceptable tenant – Admiral Croft and his wife.

You know who Sir Walter reminds me of? Vernon Dursley – you know, Harry Potter’s Uncle who is horrified at the thought of the existence of witchcraft and wizardry? Everyone goes to great lengths to tiptoe around Sir Walter, lest he get upset, and really dude is just an insufferable blowhard.

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Sidenote: as Eva pointed out, there is quite the cast of characters in Persuasion: Maybe this cast is just noisier than Emma but it feels like there are more people connected to each other in this book than in any other. I also find that because the characters are older, as in it’s not a group of sisters of a certain marriageable age (P&P, Sense and Sensibility) or a pair of young friends (Northanger Abbey or Emma), they know themselves better and you get a better look at the day to day life of people at the time, rather than a romantic run-ins that are meant to service the ultimate goal of marriage. If you’re trying to keep up, here is a helpful list of characters.

So, the tenants. It just so happens that Mrs. Croft is the sister to Captain Wentworth, who, it turns out, had lived for a year and a half with his sister, back when our Anne was 19. And Anne and Wentworth had been in L-U-V. “He was, at that time, a remarkably fine young man, with a great deal of intelligence, spirit, and brilliancy; and Anne an extremely pretty girl, with gentleness, modesty, taste, and feeling.” They had this “short period of exquisite felicity,” and then…

And then  Anne listened to the concerns of her family and friends – “with all her claims of birth, beauty, and mind, to throw herself away at nineteen; involve herself at nineteen in an engagement with a young man, who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining affluence, but in the changes of a most uncertain profession, and no connections to secure even his farther rise in the profession, would be, indeed, a throwing away…Captain Wentworth had no fortune.”

So Anne has to give up her Captain and break his heart, though her heart is equally broken. I was angry at Anne for making this decision, but Amanda and Eva pointed out that she did not really have much (any?) choice in the matter herself.

Eva: I have never been angry at Anne for breaking off her engagement. He was poor and everyone made it very clear to her that they would not be helping her should she marry him. If he had been lost at sea at some point or had never made any money, what then? A woman born in her time didn’t have a lot of options and the way she had grown up, not being cared about by any of her immediate family, I understood her hesitation.

Amanda: I have to agree with Eva.  I’m sad for her! I think at 19 in that situation you can’t put too much blame on her.  She was advised by Mrs. Russell who she loves and trusts, not just her jerky family.

However, even if Amanda and Eva are not missed at Anne, Captain Wentworth himself is still pretty ticked off, eight years later.

You see where this is all leading up to, right? Sir Walter and Elizabeth take off for Bath while the estate is let, while Anne stays on temporarily with sister Mary and her family at their nearby home. The Crofts arrive, along of course, with Captain Wentworth, who is as dreamy and charming as ever. Oh, and successful too. He’s made good on everything he had promised he would turn out to be, and poor Anne is described as having “lost her bloom.”

The Crofts and Wentworth are welcomed by Mary’s in-laws, including her two sisters-in-law, Henrietta and Louisa (aged 19 and 20), who are quite taken with the Captain. Anne tries for a time to hold out from these social engagements, but she can only make so many excuses.

Awkwardness ensues.

Chapter 8 ends with Anne and Wentworth having a rather icy interaction in which he offers her back her seat with a polite, “I beg your pardon, madam…

His cold politeness, his ceremonious grace, were worse than anything.

Shiver.

Review – For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

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Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #1

Published 2012

402 pages

Source: Library

Reviewed by Holly

I could start with the synopsis of this book, but the synopsis did not really made sense to me when I read it – or maybe I just didn’t read it very carefully.  I thought that this book took place in space for some reason. It does not.

So never mind about that. Let’s start over. For Darkness is set in a futuristic society with basically zero technology. Wait, what? Yeah, apparently people had gotten so caught up in trying to enhance human genetics that things all went to hell – and hence, the Luddites rule the land, technology is outlawed, and social distinction is based on whether or not your ancestors messed with their genes or not.

Okay, so the premise is a little bizarre. And, on top of that, the story is a retelling of Jane Austen’s  Persuasion which I have now found myself a little sad that I haven’t read. Underneath the crazy setting, I can totally see how the story arc closely follows an Austen plot: upper class girl befriends lower class boy working on her family’s estate. As teenagers, boy makes the decision to seek out better options off the farm, and she decides to stay home and support her family. When they meet again, boy has made good in the world – and the estate is falling apart. He’s angry and bitter. She is trying to keep it together. A whole bunch of miscommunication ensues.

It’s great. I really thoroughly enjoyed this one, and I just saw that the second one, Across a Star-Swept Sea is also available at the library. Score! This one is inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, so I might have to add that one to my reading list too.

Parting words:

“The old poems said that lovers were made for each other. But that wasn’t true for Kai and Elliot. They hadn’t been made for each other at all – quite the opposite. But they’d grown together, the two of them, until they were like two trees from a single trunk, stronger together than either could have been alone. And ever since he’d left, she’s been feeling his loss. He’d thrived without her, but Elliot – she’d just withered.”

4 Stars