Emily Rae Robles

the paradoxymoron

Book Review: Persuasion

I should probably admit my horrifying secret right off the bat before I even start this review: I don’t like Jane Austen. I’ve tried. My first encounter with her was in junior high. After years of hearing my mother rave about her humor, wit, and writing skill, I finally gave in and read Sense and Sensibility. I was probably either too young or too immature to appreciate it at all; I just remember being bored. A few years later, I read Pride and Prejudice. I was slightly more able to keep up with the storyline, characters, and themes, but the end result was once again that I was bored. Finally, this summer, I decided that I needed to catch up on all the Jane Austen I’ve missed out on, so I grabbed Persuasion off of my mom’s bookshelf and delved in. Once again, I sadly found myself bored.

I didn’t want to be bored by such a classic; really, I didn’t. I wanted to laugh at Austen’s biting social commentary, commiserate with the tortured heroine, and rejoice at the happy ending. But somehow, the whole thing seemed inauthentic. This is probably a sign of my immaturity or inability to understand the time in which the story is set, but I promise I at least tried.

The main thing that bothered me about Persuasion was the emphasis on intelligent society for which Austen is so renowned. As much as I enjoy a good discussion, it gets on my nerves when intellect or understanding is glorified above all else. It reminds me too much of the stereotypical pompous English major who looks down her nose at the obliviously cheerful citizens of the world, going about their daily business without even an attempt to comprehend the intertwining themes of life. I love the discovery involved in reading a good book, but the pretentiousness gets old after a while.

Although I’m sure I would have enjoyed the company of Jane Austen were we friends in real life, I’m not so sure she would like me. I don’t know that I’m sensible enough. Her writing is peppered with statements from the heroines such as “She was too ignorant and giddy for respect” (Chapter 9) and “My idea of good company is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation” (Chapter 4). That’s an awful lot of pressure.

I should probably stop rambling about how much I dislike pretentiousness, because it’s making me feel pretentious. To end on a slightly happier note, Persuasion is definitely a thoughtful book with characters that really come to life. Maybe someday I’ll grow up and be able to enjoy it more.

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July 11, 2011 Posted by | book review | 4 Comments