Austen & Me, Then & Now

So yesterday was Jane Austen’s birthday in New Zealand. And today is Jane Austen’s birthday in most other places. Therefore, this post is still valid.

Now that we’ve got that disclaimer out of the way, we can move on. As a way of celebrating Austen’s birthday, I decided to write this completely self-indulgent post. I love looking back on books and authors I love(d) and see how my feelings have changed. Of course, I still adore Austen. She is the kind of aunt that everyone wants – witty, wise and totally ok with letting you have a bit of fun without ratting you out to the parents.

But my feelings for some of her characters have undergone changes over the years, and it always interests me how books do that. Or rather, I guess, it’s the books staying the same, and you changing. Anyways, without further ado, let’s flick through her novels, shall we? (Be warned, here be spoilers.)

Pride and Prejudice

Then: When I first came across P&P, I was maybe fourteen or fifteen. I found it boring and dull, and I’m pretty sure I called Lizzie silly. Also I remember proclaiming this very loudly in a library so I can’t believe I’m still alive to tell the tale. Not to mention I hadn’t even read the novel, yet. So this judgement was being passed with nothing to stand on. What a brat.

Now: I still think Lizzie is silly at times, but for completely valid reasons (I mean, taking the word of Wickham as truth when she barely knows him? Not thinking it was weird that someone’s willing to divulge their life story, dirty laundry and all, after you’ve just met them? Not to mention Wickham bailing on the Netherfield ball, despite his If-Darcy-wants-to-avoid-me-then-he’ll-have-to-stay-away-from-the-ball bravado). Of course, now I love this novel, and everyone in it. And if not love, then at least love to laugh at everyone in it.

Sense & Sensibility

Then: When I first read this, I admired Elinor and thought she was incredibly brave and selfless, hiding her feelings and taking care of her family. Also, I couldn’t fathom why she liked Edward Ferrars. He was so meek! So much so that I often referred to him as a Wet Rag.

Now: I don’t call Edward a Wet Rag anymore. Much. It took me awhile, but it dawned on me that it was Edward’s principles that made him stand by his promise to Lucy despite falling in love with Elinor later. Even when he realized what a cow completely different person Lucy was to the facade she presented, he knew she was relying on her. Abandoning women after he’s given them their word is just not what Edward Ferrars does.

As for Elinor, I now think that she was having a little too much fun in playing the martyr. Perhaps fun isn’t the right word. I still think she’s brave, but it helps to share your problems, at least partially, if you aren’t the type to confide in anyone. No one ever benefited from bottling anything up.

Also Elinor was far too lenient with Lucy. Surely there were ways she could have extricated herself from their little tête-à-têtes. It’s almost as if Elinor was a little masochistic. She says to Marianne, “I have enjoyed all the punishments of an attachment, and none of the advantages”, but it seems to me much of the punishment is invited by Elinor herself.

Mansfield Park

Then: I didn’t think much of this one other than that it was super boring, and that Fanny was incredibly dull, if to be pitied. Oh, and I couldn’t deny how brave she was.

Now: To be fair, my view point hasn’t changed all that much. But I can better appreciate Fanny’s resilience when it comes to sticking to her principles, especially with everyone she knows disapproving of her choice. I think I now understand more deeply how hard it can be to be true to yourself when those closest to you are trying to persuade you to do the opposite. It shows immense strength of character, and is certainly admirable. Still not convinced about that Edmund guy, though.

Persuasion

Then: When I first read this novel I was besotted with Anne and Frederick’s story. Young lovers separated for eight long years, throughout which they continued to love another? Constancy! That beautiful and rare thing, and it was all I saw.

Now: Well, now…I have to “tsk” at Frederick’s impulsive actions. After all, Anne wasn’t rejecting him, only suggesting that they postpone their plans until he was better situated. Granted he was young, and couldn’t take the sting of rejection. But then, to return later, and behave like a jerk of the highest order and shove every flirtation in her face? As if Anne had committed some heinous crime. I used to think he was my favorite romantic, but I’ve come to realize that while theirs is my favourite romance (I’m still a sucker for it, I admit), Frederick is far from being the ideal romantic hero.

Northanger Abbey

Then: I adored his story. It’s such a fun romp, and Catherine is a complete fangirl. Also, who can resist the devastating charm of Henry Tilney, whose hobbies including dancing, the science of smirking, and discussing muslin?

Now: I pretty much still feel the same way. Except now I wonder whether Henry falling for Catherine’s naivete and her unabashed adoration of him is enough of a foundation on which to begin a relationship. I suppose it’s a lot more than other couples at the time would have had to start with.

Emma

Then: I found Emma to be insufferable. At the start, she isn’t so bad, but as time goes on she become more and more … monstrous in a way. It’s like watching Frankenstein’s monster wreak havoc. If the monster was interested in matchmaking and manipulating the lives of those around them. I thought she was lucky to have someone like Knightley around her, who was perhaps the only one in her circle who wasn’t afraid to point out her flaws.

Now: I still find Emma insufferable, but I’m also a little fond of her. I suppose everyone goes through that stage where they believe they don’t need to be told anything, and that they know exactly what they’re doing. Emma’s just a much more forthright person, so all her opinions manifest into real-life catastrophes for those around here. In any case, it makes for an entertaining read. Plus, Knightley’s become my favourite Austen hero – there’s something to be said for the devastating combination of common sense and a healthy sense of humour.

~~

Looking back, I can see how my tastes have changed as I matured more. I think I’ve grown more understanding of the characters in some ways, but perhaps become more judgmental in other ways. What can I say? To judge is human.

Let me know about your Austen experiences. I’d love to hear them. She’s had such a wide ranging influence that it’s always interesting to hear how differently she’s interpreted. (And don’t worry, I can handle criticisms.)

Austen Made Me Do It, I Swear

   So I’m a little late on the uptake. I mean, I knew that this year marked the 200th anniversary of the publication of “Pride & Prejudice”. What I didn’t realize was that the actual date was the 28th of January. Today, to be precise. 

   The Austenite in me won’t allow the day pass by without commemorating it in my own small way so here we are. I figured I‘d just post one of my favorite scenes – if not the favorite – from the novel. It offers a tantalizing glimpse of Lizzie’s and Darcy’s life together and confirms all our beliefs that these two do belong with each other. 

x

    Elizabeth’s spirits soon rising to playfulness gain, she wanted Mr. Darcy to account for his having ever fallen in love with her. 
   
   ‘How could you being?’ she said. “I can comprehend your going on charmingly, when you had once made a beginning; but what could set you off in the first place?’

   ‘I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.’

   ‘My beauty you had early withstood, and as for my manners – my behaviour to you was at least always bordering on the uncivil, and I never spoke to you without rather wishing to give you pain than not. Now, be sincere; did you admire me for my impertinence?’

   ‘For the liveliness of your mind, I did.’

   ‘You as well call it impertinence at once. It was very little less. The fact, that you were sick of civility, of deference, of officious attention. You were disgusted with the women who were always speaking and looking and thinking for your approbation alone. I roused and interested you, because I was so unlike them. Had you not been really amiable, you would have hated me for it; but, in spite of the pains you took to disguise yourself, your feelings were always noble and just; and, in your heart, you thoroughly despised the persons who so assiduously courted you. There – I have saved you the trouble of accounting for it; and really, all things considered, I begin to think it perfectly reasonable. To be sure, you know no actual good of me – but nobody thinks of that when they fall in love.’

   ‘Was there no good in your affectionate behaviour to Jane, while she was ill at Netherfield?’

x

   ‘Dearest Jane! Who could have done less for her? But make a virtue of it by all means. My good qualities are under your protection, and you are to exaggerate them as much as possible; and, in return, it belongs to me to find occasions for teazing and quarrelling with you as often as may be; and I shall begin directly, by asking you what made you so unwilling to come to the point at last? What made you so shy of me when you first called, and afterwards dined here? Why, especially, when you called, did you look as if you did not care about me?’ 

   ‘Because you were grave and silent, and gave me no encouragement.’

   ‘But I was embarrassed.’

   ‘And so was I.’

   ‘You might have talked to me more when you came to dinner.’

   ‘A man who had felt less, might.’

   ‘How unlucky that you should have a reasonable answer to give, and that I should be so reasonable as to admit it. But I wonder how long you would have gone on if you had been left to yourself! I wonder when you would have spoken, if I had not asked you! My resolution of thanking you for your kindness to Lydia had certainly great effect – too much, I am afraid; for what becomes of the moral, if our comfort springs from a breach of promise? For I ought not to have mentioned the subject. This will never do.’

   ‘You need not distress yourself. The moral will be perfectly fair. Lady Catherine’s unjustifiable endeavours to separate us were the means of removing all my doubts. I am not indebted for my present happiness to your eager desire of expressing your gratitude. I was not in a humour to wait for an opening of yours. My aunt’s intelligence had given me hope, and I was determined at once to know every thing.

   ‘Lady Catherine has been of infinite use which ought to make her happy, for she loves to be of use. But tell me, what did you come down to Netherfield for? Was it merely to ride to Longbourn, and be embarrassed – or had you intended any more serious consequences?’

   ‘My real purpose was to see you, and to judge, if I could, whether I might ever hope to make you love me. My avowed one, or what I avowed to myself, was to see whether your sister was still partial to Bingley, and, if she were, to make the confession to him which I have since made.’

   ‘Shall you ever have courage to announce to Lady Catherine what is to befall her?’

   ‘I am more likely to want time than courage, Elizabeth. But it ought to be done; and if you will give me a sheet of paper, it shall be done directly.

   I love this passage for the ease and familiarity between Darcy and Lizzie that is on display. There is none of that rigidity from their days of hating each other – or I should say of Lizzie hating Darcy. And there’s none of the romantic, ‘dearest, loveliest Elizabeth‘ stuff either – which is all great! I mean, as a “P&P” lover it’s very gratifying to reach that bit and be present for when everything comes into the open. But my preference is for the moments that come after the great declaration has been made.

    It puts a sappy smile on my face to read Darcy saying Lizzie’s first name with such normality – after that huge struggle, here they are, teasing and being teased, discussing their past  mistakes and just generally enjoying each other‘s company. And it makes me so happy to read it! None of the screen adaptations that I’ve seen include this particular dialogue, but I would love it oh so incredibly much if someone were to capture the warmth, the playfulness, and the the way in which both Darcy and Lizzie are so obviously relishing feeling out each other’s characters in this scene. We’ve watched them struggle throughout most of the novel for each other‘s love, so I say give us more of a chance to see the delicious rewards they’ve earned.

x


     I absolutely love this picture of these two! It captures that playful side to their relationship which I can’t help but find appealing, especially considering that Darcy seems as stiff as the proverbial upper lip to begin with . Lizzie obviously finds something funny and Darcy seems to be verging on the beginnings of a smile (because an actual smile would be too much, wouldn’t it Darce? Am I allowed to call him that? Does that make me as bad as Mrs. Eton?) Ah, my P&P fangirl’s showing  and it’s all Jane Austen’s fault.

   Sincerely,
     Lady Disdain       

A Belated Birthday Letter

Dear Miss Austen,

       I doubt you even considered the possibility that years after your death people all over the world would be celebrating your birthday. Celebrating the day that brought your brilliant literary self into the world. 

   When I first came across you I wasn’t overly impressed. It’s not my proudest moment, I’ll admit. I remember picking up “Pride & Prejudice” and thinking it was boring. Yes. I was a stupid child. 

   But it seemed your presence would be an inevitable part of my life, because soon after my ridiculous snubbing of you my dad gifted me with a hardback copy of the exact novel which I had snubbed. 

   I suppose enough time had passed since my first rejection that I decided to give you another try – as if it would be an ordeal! But no sooner had I read the first sentence I was blissfully submerged in your world. I chuckled and cringed and swooned throughout the entire book. You were brilliant. Here was a book you had written in the nineteenth century and it was playing out like a film in my mind. Characters you had penned to life within the walls of Steventon in the eighteen hundreds seemed inherently familiar to me – an extension of the very people I knew in my own life. 

   How could you do it? How did you know? I was happily in awe. I spent whole days curled up in the sofa, content to let your words wrap around me. You impressed me with every page – your wit, your humor, your sharp execution of characters! I was quickly falling in love. Lizzie’s and Darcy’s story flamed the romantic in me. Mrs. Bennet’s and Mr. Collins’ antics left me alternately chuckling and shaking my head. I cringed at Lydia, bristled at Caroline and longed to give Mr. Bennet a good whack over the head. There was no doubt that you’d created a literary world in which I loved to live in. Loved it because, despite the distance of time, manners and custom, it was so believable. 

   Years ago you breathed life into your novels, penning your characters, and now, after so much time, those characters have become whole entities – they’re beings who have become so real to me  – real to a lot of your readers. So many of your characters are more real, more vibrant than the ones in my own life. Your keen eye for observation left me seeing my own relatives, friends and acquaintances reflected in the pages of your novel. 

   It wasn’t long before I eagerly hunted down the rest of your novels – yes, the girl who snubbed you – and devoured them as if they were an elixir. And in a way they are. Every year, every time I revisit a story of yours, I wish so badly that you had lived longer, written more, so that we could have more of your brilliant wit to enjoy, more of your wonderful characters to love. Even so, I’m glad that we Janeites have at least these novels to bring us such joy and entertainment. Your six masterpieces through which we come to know you a little better with every reading. 

   You are simply brilliant and the sixteenth of December is a day close to all Janeites’ hearts.

   Sincerely, 
     Lady Disdain

Persuasion 1995

    Park me in front of a television playing the 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion” and you can be assured that I’ll be reduced to a sighing, heart-clutching, swooning, sappy mess. And I’m not even ashamed to admit it. 
 
Proximity excites me.
   
   You wouldn’t be either if you knew the story of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth. Estranged after Anne is persuaded to reject Frederick’s proposal, the couple meet again after eight years only to find that the feelings which they thought to be so strong in their past have yet to go away. Ah, constancy! How you make me swoon. 
Anne Elliot
    And this film captures all that is swoon-worthy about this Austen novel. The chemistry between the two leads is palpably sizzling. The air around the screen crackled with it.
Amanda Root plays the quietly strong Anne Elliot. Following her rejection of Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds), she has not given thought to marrying anyone else. With that desire, her ‘bloom’ in life also fades, apparently, and so she is relegated to the background of everyone’s lives, forced to tolerate their snubs and attempt to right their wrongs. Root is great at portraying Anne’s infinite patience and ultimate resignation when it comes to the way the Elliot family treat Anne. Respect is something that is utterly foreign to them, and, if anything, Anne is viewed at best as a lady’s maid. Anne, too, has accepted her position without question and goes about her tasks without any contempt or bitterness. It’s evident in every word, look and movement delivered by Root that Anne views this as her punishment for having turned on the one man who was willing to accept all of her. 
Frederick Wentworth
   Speaking of whom – Ciaran Hinds is impeccable  as Captain Wentworth. He dominates his role so well that he totally submerges himself in the character of Frederick Wentworth. Frederick’s attempt at indifference, his hurt at Anne’s rejection – still there after so many years, his inability to ignore Anne’s well being, are so masterfully portrayed by Hinds. The interaction between Anne and Frederick – and believe me when I say there aren’t many – were brilliantly layered, with the superficial niceties blanketing their painful history but never banishing it from the viewer’s mind. Also, Hinds cuts a very dashing figure in his navy coat. No wonder the Misses Musgrove were all over him. 
The most tantalizing shot in the entire film.
   Anne and Wentworth’s reunion following the letter is perfection – it weighs with all their unsaid words, and yet displays the joy that both undoubtedly feel at such an event. It is poignant and perfect, and, in my opinion, has yet to be topped (yes, I’m looking at you 2006 adaptation!). The kiss is a brief one, but the small gestures – Wentworth taking Anne’s hand in his, Anne weaving her arm through his and then looking up at him are subtle but very overpowering. All this occurs with some street performers in the background, a travelling circus that has captured everyone’s attention. Everyone’s, that is, except Anne’s and Wentworth’s. Yes, my inner Austenite is squealing.
   
  However, let’s not ignore the supporting cast, because it’s a brilliant one. Sir Walter Elliot is exquisitely portrayed by Corin Redgrave. I wanted to strangle him – I wanted to rip off his insufferable cravat, mess up his hair and tie him up with his own pantaloons. That kind of reaction must indicate a good performance, methinks. His arrogance and vanity were undeniable, but it was his almost indifferent attitude towards others that really caught my eye. Yes, it’s a given that he would be indifferent to Anne, but it’s pretty evident that he doesn’t care for anyone really but himself. 
Sir Walter Elliot & Hideous Outfit
   Lady Russell was played by Susan Fleetwod. My only real problem with her is a superficial one. What is going on with that hair? I had no idea they had that kind of fringe in the nineteenth century. Other than that she was a wonderful Lady Russell, portraying a compassionate and caring confidant for our heroine. There are some truly sweet moments between her and Anne. 
Lady Russell
   Mrs DurselyFiona Shaw plays Mrs. Croft, Frederick’s brother, and it warmed my old romantic heart to see her get on so well with Anne. The chemistry between those two was believable as well. There was a very clear wish on both sides to better their acquaintance and Fiona Shaw has this subtle way of acting as if Mrs. Croft knows what’s going on with Frederick and Anne. 
Anne & Mrs. Croft
   
   Sophie Thompson is utterly insufferable as Mary Musgrove, Anne’s youngest and most aggravating sister. She nothing but bitterness, arrogance and laziness. I couldn’t fathom why they chose the person they did to play Elizabeth, however. From what I remember Elizabeth is supposed to be the best looking of the Elliot sisters and this woman was definitely not beautiful. I know she is supposed to be arrogant and slightly short-tempered but she only came across as petulant and childish. Not my favourite portrayal.
 
Mary Musgrove
Elizabeth & Mrs. Clay
   
    Speaking of being miscast, Mrs. Clay seems to be another error. Sir Walter Elliot seemed to favour her so much due to her good looks – at least, that was the case with the novel. I’m not quite sure why he favours her so much here. All his barbed jokes regarding the navy’s lack of good looks seem to fall flat with Mrs. Clay laughing so heartily at them. Do I sound horrible? Yes, I do. But I’m speaking for the novel! And that‘s what the novel feels, apparently.

Mr. Elliot
   Mr. Elliot, Frederick’s ‘rival’, was played by the good-looking Samuel West. He‘s very good at portraying the subtle self-interest that propels all of Mr. Elliot’s actions. All of his smiles and words are lined with an artifice, while still appearing to be genuine.
   The cinematography was unexpectedly impressive. There are some beautiful shots, especially of the seaside – but also some visual metaphors and juxtaposition to keep your eyes peeled for. I feel as if the cinematography could have been better – especially with a story like “Persuasion” where there isn’t a swirling plot to reel the viewers in, but as I say it was better than expected. I would love for someone to give it the visual vibrancy that Joe Wright injected into the 2005 Pride & Prejudice. 
At Lyme
   
   I had one major problem with this film. People’s table manners seem a little ill-suited to their time period and class distinction. There’s a breakfast scene at Uppercross with Charles Musgrove vacuuming the table’s toppings and I was little disgusted at how did it. But even more unacceptable was the way in which Elizabeth chewed her sweets. I expected more from the daughter of someone who holds a baronetcy but I suppose that was mere foolishness on my part. 
   Aside from questionable table manners, however, the film is a thoroughly enjoyable one. It gives off a very ‘raw’ and real vibe; there’s a sort of tangibility there, a realness is created for a time that’s very far from modern-day viewers. The acting from everyone was spot on, and if you’ve read the book, very easily recognizable, too. 
Wentworth & Anne
    
   This adaptation makes for a very pleasant viewing and will leave you with warm fuzzies to last you for an entire day. Possibly more. And we could all of us use some warm fuzzies, don’t you think?
   Sincerely,
     Lady Disdain

"Northanger Abbey" by Jane Austen

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Dear Reader,

It’s quite amazing, isn’t it, the difference a second impression can make?
The first time I read “Northanger Abbey”, I found Catherine to be a little boring, the plot to be a little forgettable and the Thorpe clan to be heartless little pricks, the lot of them.
Reading “Northanger Abbey” a second time left my feelings unchanged on that last point – on the first two, however, they had undergone a distinct transformation. Catherine no longer seemed boring – only endearing in her innocence, naiveté, and ingenuity. And while the plot wasn’t as intricate or well-developed as Austen’s other novels, I can wager that I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. The novel lacks the substance and polish of her other works, but it will still hold a place on my bookshelf as it only serve to reveal yet another aspect of Austen’s character. And what Austen fan can resist such temptation? Not this one, reader.
I’m always a little surprised at the change of feelings I undergo regarding Austen’s novels. It seems I’m always unimpressed with Austen the first time around, while the second reading leaves me fawning over her creations and execution. This is also true of “Pride & Prejudice.  I think I’ll just have to chalk that up to my slowly developing brain.
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I relished this reading of “Northanger Abbey” as it had been quite awhile ago I last read it. And as I wasn’t too impressed by Catherine and her story at the time, I’d forgotten much of the interactions that take place between the characters. I have to say that made for a novel reading experience for me; novel because it felt as if I was reading an Austen for the first time, and as any Austen fan knows that with only six of her novels to drool over, this is a rare experience and one to be cherished. 
It was so enjoyable for me, made even more enjoyable by Henry Tilney. Now he’s no Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth, but he’s oh so attractive in his own way and bless me if the man isn’t snarky! (A snarky Austen hero? Be still my beating heart!) He was by far my favorite character in the novel. I absolutely loved his sense of humor, and found myself able to relate to his general silliness and playful sarcasm. I had a smile on my face every time he walked onto the page.
As for Catherine, while she is not as impressive as Austen’s other heroines, she does manage to hold her own with a strength that is quite admirable. I spent the first half the novel cringing at Isabella and John’s ministrations, and Catherine’s blindness to them. And if I wasn’t cringing, then I was worried that Catherine wouldn’t be able to fend off the Thorpes and would allow their manipulations to estrange her from the Tilneys forever. I was so afraid for her! But, she managed to surprise me and stand strong against the combined forces of John, Isabella and even her own brother James (who by the way, displayed far too little sense to please me). Catherine is definitely the naive, fresh-faced heroine – not altogether a bad combination, except when she’s jumping to the most ridiculous conclusions based on the flimsiest of evidence. Her thought process when condemning General Tilney was a little painful to read – something which Austen intended, no doubt. There was a point when I wanted to whack the girl over the head and tell her to open her eyes. Thankfully Henry Tilney was there do that for me (minus, the whacking the head part). 
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The secondary characters are also present, in all their usual Austenian splendor. Ever wondered if there is a woman to rival Mrs. Bennet in ridiculousness? Then Mrs. Allen is the woman for you – that woman talks of nothing but muslins, and I found her very self-absorbed. At least, part of Mrs. Bennet’s silliness springs from her desire to see her daughters well-settled. Not so with Mrs. Allen; she is childless, and she might as well be husbandless and friendless for all the care she bestows them. She manages to manipulate any conversation so that no matter what you were discussing before, you always end up with MUSLINS. There. That rant alone should be enough to convince you how realistically Austen is able to draw her characters (realistic enough for me to start shuddering every time Mrs. Allen walks onto the scene).

Overall, this is a quick, enjoyable read with plenty of opportunities for some chuckles, a bit of romance, and a dolloping of Austen’s snarky wit. Need I say more? 
3.5 out of 5 Japanese cabinets. 
Sincerely, 
  Lady Disdain

"Sense and Sensibility" by Jane Austen

Dear Reader,
  
            Do you ever have one of those days where you do something completely stupid and you can do nothing but berate yourself for it for the rest of the day? Today, I happened to misread an e-mail (that’s right, misread – from one who’s studying English lit) and I ended up missing the first lecture of a class I was really looking forward to. I know they would have covered nothing besides the basics and introductory outlines etc. but I am still quite dejected about it. So I figured there is nothing that can cheer me better than a post on Austen. And here we are.
            “Sense & Sensibility” is the latest Austen that I happened to read. I first read it a few years ago in high school, and at the time it didn’t have as much of an impact on me as it did the second time around. It is much more realistic novel than “Pride & Prejudice” and therefore, to a high school girl, not as appealing or glamorous I guess. With the second reading, however, I fell in love with it. 
            The Premise: upon the death of her husband, Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters (Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret) are forced to leave their beloved home of Norland and seek cheaper lodgings elsewhere. For Elinor, the eldest, this is doubly difficult as Norland is also the place where she has formed an acquaintance with Edward Ferrars, a respectable young man for whom she has begun to nurse deeper feelings. 
Though the move means the stalling of one sister’s romance, their new lodgings at Barton Cottage enable the introduction of the dashing John Willoughby, who’s prone to reciting poetry – the very epitome of the romantic Marianne’s ideal man. The two soon embark on a very heated and quickly progressing romance that sets the whole village talking. Colonel Brandon, a quiet, respect and reserved older man, who is taken with Marianne is pushed to the background as the two youngsters make eyes only at each other.
Things, however, are not what they seem. Mr. Willoughby is not completely what he seems to be; Edward and Elinor’s relationshipis not as secure as the Dashwood women believed it to be and Colonel Brandon seems to hiding the biggest secret of all. It is through their adventures (or misadventures) at their new home, amongst their new acquainted that the Dashwood gain a deeper knowledge of each other, the world around them, and most importantly themselves.
End Premise. 
S&S is, first and foremost, a novel about sisters and family. I think that is my favourite part about this novel; from the first crisis that they are thrown into at the beginning of the novel, the Dashwood women find strength in themselves by providing the much needed support for each other. No matter how dire their situation or how harshly they are treated by John Dashwood and his cold-hearted wife the Dashwood ladies are always able to derive comfort and cheer from each other. When I think of S &S I am inevitably reminded of the strong relationship that existed between Jane Austen and her sister, Cassandra. To me, this novel is the embodiment of that relationship, of any healthy relationship between the closest, and yet most differing, of sisters that enables both to grow in their knowledge of themselves and each other. 
This novel is inevitably laced with that sharp, well-aimed irony with which the world has come to associate Austen’s writing. Throughout the novel, she is constantly poking fun at her multitude of characters – sometimes gently, and at other times viciously, with eloquent jibes that leave you wincing and chuckling. Even Elinor and Marianne cannot escape, and that’s what makes this novel engaging. Nobody is perfect, least of all the two heroines, and their faults and drawbacks are brought to light, just as our own are in life. 

I loved the writing in this novel – that goes without saying as this is an Austen novel, and I am a diehard Austen fan. But I guess what I mean to say is that I especially loved her writing in this novel, because a lot of it takes place in Devonshire, with the lush description of green cliffs and the lapping waves at their cottage doorstep. Austen’s love of the countryside is evident in almost all her novels, but to me, it was especially evident here in the way she depicted it as a haven for the Dashwood family to recuperate from whatever blows that life dealt them. 
The plot is well-paced and the story continued to be propelled forward in a believable manner. As I said, this novel is so much more realistic than P&P and that, I think, is one of its strengths. My only problem with it was near the end, after Marianne’s recovery from her illness and her affections for Colonel Brandon are described.  Their romance, and the lack of description of its evolution really got to me. In the end it is resolved far too swiftly, in a manner that is almost unbelievable because it’s described in such a dry and ironical fashion. Marianne’s realization of her ‘feelings’ for Brandon seems rather too formulaic for my taste, and that kind of calculating description sucked the whole thing dry. I guess to make it more believable Austen would’ve had to add a bit more to the novel. 
Stories of personal growth engage readers’ interests; and stories of personal growth which reflect our own mundane lives are all the more engaging for their vivid resemblance to reality. And S&S is such a story. Oh, I don’t pretend to say that my life is filled with wicked, dashing men who carry me in their arms through a downpour or shocking revelations that my beau is secretly engaged to a vindictive cow girl I’ve only just met. 
But my life isfilled with people who seem to lack principles, girls who seem to rejoice in the crushing blows they deal each other, and annoying but well-meaning relatives or friends who tease endlessly without seeming to know their limits. This is evidently why Austen’s work continues to enjoy such huge popularity; she chose to write on that which will always be the same, even as it undergoes the most drastic of changes: human character. Even after hundreds of years, these caricatures are amusing for us to read about because they’re still applicable. 
 
And in the conduct of such admirable characters as Elinor – and even Marianne in some instances – we come to learn of how to deal with the less than savory characters that life inevitably throws at us. Of course, it would have been satisfying if Elinor had rubbed it in Lucy’s face the obvious preference that Edward had for her, but that would be undignified and petty. And of course it would be easy to wallow in our misery and indulge in self pity, but we owe it to those closest to us to make an effort and take a step in the right direction as Marianne did. This is why I love Austen. She wrote about people in the nineteenth but two decades later, her character studies are still relevant. 
I’ve gotten a little carried way and this has turned out be a little novella of a review. Bottom line: S&S is a well-developed story with fleshed out characters, realistic plot and memorable (and familiar) secondary characters. Recommend this novel to men (if they have the courage) and women. 
Rating: 5 out 5 reticules. 
Sincerely,
 Lady Disdain

"Persuasion" by Jane Austen

   For some reason, a lot of sources seem to categorize Persuasion as a ‘Cinderella’ story and this infuriates me to no end. I fail to understand why. Or why it should be completely categorized as such, anyway. Except maybe for the complete transformation that Anne Elliot undergoes I fail to see any similarities between Anne, who through her experiences and hardships manages to grow and develop into a confident young woman and Cinderella, who, endlessly optimistic despite the number of mice inhabiting her bedroom has everything pretty much handed to her on a silver platter. Or a glass shoe, as the case may be.
   Persuasion is Austen’s last novel to be published and, according to many critics, her most mature. It is the story of Anne Elliot, quiet, gentle Anne Elliot who lives with her eldest sister, the cool and haughty Elizabeth and their arrogant and pompous father, Sir Walter Elliot. It seems as if Anne is forever overruled by those around her, not simply because she is quiet and gentle, but also because her disposition is one that is self-less and, as a result, she is continually putting the needs of others before her own.




   The extravagant and frivolous lifestyle that Anne’s father and eldest sister have adopted soon makes it incumbent that they give up their current impressive residence of Kellynch Hall, and seek a more modest abode elsewhere. Thus, the story begins with moving house. The most common, and sometimes the only adventure, that many undertake. This particular adventure throws Anne into the way of Captain Wentworth – a name which instills both dread and longing in our protagonist’s heart. The two have met some eight years prior to the beginning of this novel and readers soon learn that Frederick Wentworth’s was Anne’s first love – and, much to the gratitude of this romantic reader, her only one. However, due to Wentworth’s lack of position, or financial security, Lady Russell – Anne’s godmother and greatest confidante, since the passing of her own mother – persuades our heroine to break off the engagement. Now, nearly a decade later, Wentworth returns, secure in his position as a successful captain and determined in his efforts to find a wife. And this time he is adamant that he will not allow Anne Elliot an opportunity to reject his hand again


   At the heart of this novel is, undoubtedly, a love story. However, as the title suggests, the novel also deals with that innate ability which we all possess to a certain degree – that of persuasion. A few months before beginning Persuasion Austen, too, found herself with the power to decide the outcome of her niece, Fanny Knight’s engagement. Upon her opinion being sought Austen was determined to make it clear that this decision should be Fanny’s and Fanny’s alone – on no account should she be swayed by the opinions of others, regardless of how beloved an aunt they may be, as Austen was to Fanny. Bestowed with such a frightening power, and no doubt, forced to consider the many ways in which she and others might affect the lives of many through the insistence of an opinion, Austen pens “Persuasion” and invites her readers to consider the same issue.


  It is the persuasion of Anne which begins the novel, but it is the persuasion, and persuading, of the surrounding characters which drive the plot. Austen does not just invite us to consider how frequently we attempt to persuade others, but also how easily and how quickly we allow ourselves to be persuaded. Though Anne’s decision to break off her engagement with Wentworth may be justified (as she was not simply thinking of her difficulties, but of Wentworth’s also, in the troubles that should inevitably arise for a young man of no means attempting to support a wife) the persuasions of other characters are displayed and gently mocked for the willingness with which they allow their opinions to be swayed. It is through this discussion of such innate human qualities that Austen renders her novels as being timeless stories. For persuasion, and the act of persuading, is something we can all be guilty of having undertaken, for better or worse. The novel simply highlights the ways in which we experience both, either knowingly or unknowingly.


   For me, however, the ultimate pleasure I derive from this novel is from the story of Anne and Fredrick. Of how their love was able to endure the test of both time and distance. The length of eight years, and the distance of thousands and thousands of miles. For a reader in the twenty-first century, this seems like the makings of a fairy tale. And, indeed, at times I find myself scoffing at such an idea. Can anyone’s first love ever really be their last? And can it really stand the test of such a long period of time? Doesn’t out of sight mean out of mind?


   Anne and Frederick prove otherwise. Theirs is a love so strong, that despite their own attempts to overcome it, they cannot. It’s a love that not only stands the test of time – but challenges it, faces it head on, and ultimately triumphs. Their love, after such a long estrangement, only proves to be stronger. From having watched friends go through date after date, and fall out from one relationship and into another with the weakest of excuses, this novel,to me, acts as a beacon of faith. I want to believe that such a love can – does – exist and as long as I’m rifling contentedly between the pages of Persuasion, I can. And I invite you to do the same.

 “…they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their reunion, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other’s character, truth, and attachment…”

5 out of 5 stars.