In hindsight, I'm pleased that I did. Having finished the book several weeks ago, I can report that I actually enjoyed it. If you haven't read the book, I won't spoil it too, too much. But, in the spirit of discussing it let me give you a little bit of a play by play. The story centers around Anne Elliot. Like so many of Austen's female characters, Anne is unmarried and slowly entering an age where her world finds that unfortunate. Of course there is a love story involved in the plot - this is Austen after all. And of course there is much hemming and hawing, uncertainty of the other's emotion and loads of repression en route to true love. But, thankfully for my taste, the love story isn't the only thing happening in Persuasion.
Where I think Austen really excels is in her presentation of the wack-a-doos that surround Anne. Anne's pompous father, her mentally unstable and frivolous sisters and the remaining eccentric cast of characters that fill the pages of Persuasion are what kept me engrossed in this book. Austen does crazy well. Her prose avoids out right judgementalism while still clearly communicating her characters' flaws. Her persuasive character descriptions are subtle and detached enough to allow the reader to come to her own conclusion. She never outright accuses a character, but allows each one just enough rope to hang themselves. It is genteel and finely disguised cattiness. And that is where I found Austen's writing to teeter on the brink of brilliance. Austen is funny. And my reading of Persuasion reminded me of that.
Now, despite my distaste for Austen's books in the past, I've always been a fan of their screen adaptations. As my friend Carrie has said, Austen should have been a screenwriter. Her stories, I would argue, are MUCH better on the big and small screen than on paper. But, all that may change. For the first time, I actually enjoyed READING Austen's work. Hallelujah! Perhaps it's the newly found patience I am developing. Perhaps, Persuasion is just a better book than those others I've tried. Perhaps it was the force feeding and peer pressure applied by Lexi. Who knows? All I can say is that I am willing to give Ms. Austen another try. And I can definitely recommend Persuasion. If you haven't already read it and even if you aren't an Austen fan, try it. You just might find yourself as pleasantly surprised as I am.
Are you an Austen fan?