10 September 2012


"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 9

The deadline for this post sneaked up on me last night, when I realised it was Sunday and that I was in danger of publishing another backdated post. So I grabbed my copy of Persuasion right before I ran out the door on an impromptu shopping expedition. The plan was to buy a ticket for a certain concert I'm not going to tell you about yet and to do some window shopping for the perfect concert outfit. I saw a really great skirt with a palette similar to that of the band's EP jacket, but it's awfully expensive. And the ticket was pricey enough, you know?

So I got the ticket and left the skirt. Now the former is a bookmark and the latter is a dream. There are a few more days to decide whether the skirt is worth it, but the "Two or Three" Book Club post is due now.

Chapters 13 to 16

Does your edition of Persuasion have two volumes or one? Mine has two--and I'm glad of it because the division underlines the Before and After in Anne's life.

In Volume 1, or the first twelve chapters of the novel, Anne is quite the pathetic creature. She is living with a father and sister who don't value her at all and can count the number of good friends she has on a single finger. And that friend was formerly her mother's best friend. There are some neighbours who like having her around, but she's not going to be adopted by them any time soon. It has been this way for her, for over seven years--an awful price to pay for having made one poor decision in the past. Jane Austen hints that such stultifying society is one reason Anne never got over Captain Wentworth, and I understand completely.

As Volume 2 opens, however, we see that everything has changed. And for me, the change was so smooth that if my edition didn't break up the narrative into Before and After, I wouldn't be remarking on it now. The Anne of Volume 2 is remarkably different from the Anne of Volume 1 . . . and it seems to have everything to do with the new company she has been keeping. Her father, her sister, and the odious Lady Russell have all been away, the neutral neighbours/in-laws have made her feel needed, and some new friends (from the navy!) have come into her life. And not only is she feeling better, but she is also looking better: she catches a new gentleman's eye, gets the previously unimpressed Captain Wentworth to do a double take, and even receives some compliments from both Lady Russell and her father when she sees them again.

So at the end of Chapter 16, when Anne and that new gentleman, who turns out to be her cousin Mr. Eliot, are discussing "good company," we know that there is so much more to the issue than "only birth, education and manners." Anne's perspective, already wise, has finally broken out of the limited frame it has been trapped in for almost eight years. She has had "good company" for the past eight years and it has done her no good. A few weeks with new acquaintances, whom her usual companions would reject out of hand, have changed everything for her.

Of course, a thousand other interesting things could be said about these four chapters. Care to add one in the combox? =)


Jenny said...

I just love this book! I'm so happy to read your updates on it since I can't reread the book at the moment.

Darwin said...

Not only do I not have the division into two volumes, but since I've been listening on unabridge audiobook (while driving to and from work) the chapters are kind of slipping by without a lot of definition. I just started 22, so I'm a little ahead.

I'd agree though as to the stark change when we start to see Anne with people outside her circle. (Incidentally, I really liked how the Amanda Root movie did this visually.)

One of the things that stands out in the opening of the book is how little you hear about Anne at all. In Austin's other books it's always very clear from the get-go who the main character is. With Persuasion, Anne is so much in the background in the first chapter or two that it takes a minute to settle on who we're going to be following.

When she goes off to visit Musgroves, we start to see how she is essential. (There's been some of that before with the retrenching, but no one actually listens to her.) However, it's not until we get to Lyme that we see how she is attractive. Anne has a sort of sudden second bloom, and she's hot stuff.

I don't know if she's always been in the shadows since she turned Captain Wentworth down. You kind of wonder what things were like back when she turned down Charles Musgrove. Clearly everyone (him included) in the Musgrove family wishes that she had been willing to have him, but she wasn't. And now she catches the eye of both Mr. Elliot and Capt. Benwick, while re-attracting Capt. Wentworth's attention. Our main character is clearly a bit of a hot commodity in her restrained way.

Enbrethiliel said...


Jenny -- Thanks! You're also very welcome to join the discussions. =)

Darwin -- I vaguely recall watching the opening of the Amanda Root movie and thinking that the whole cast had been hurled at me at once. =P If I hadn't known about Anne, I would have wondered who the heroine was. In contrast, the Rupert Penry-Jones movie (Well, of course I call it that! =P) makes it very clear from the beginning who our heroine is. While I'd say it was "better," I also wasn't sure how I felt about that. I think Austen intended us to be a little lost at the beginning. (But there seems to be no way a modern reader, who can easily read a summary on the back cover, would have a similar experience with Persuasion.)

That's a good point about Anne being a "hot commodity," and either not realising it or not feeling the attraction in return.

If you will indulge a tangential thought . . . I remember a male friend and a female friend of mine "fighting" over which of them had it worse in the past year. (For context: it mostly in fun and we had been drinking.) My male friend insisted he had had it worse because there hadn't been a single woman who had found him attractive enough for a second date. My female friend argued that she had had it worse because there hadn't been a single man she had found attractive enough for a second date (although they had hoped for more). Our pal protested that having the "wrong" people find you attractive is not the same as having no people find you attractive. He'd likely also disagree with my initial opinion that Anne languished in a romantic desert for over seven years and say that she just didn't like all the oases she passed by.

That said, not all oases are created equal. I don't blame her for not accepting Charles Musgrove's proposal or any other proposals that might have come her way. But I also wonder, from my own personal experience, how much of her seven-year-long misery was a self-inflicted yoke she could have cast off at any time.

marellus said...

I've never read an Austin Book.

But then ... there is this :


and this ...


christopher said...

I bet I know what the concert is/was and you never said a word to me... mwahahahaaaaa... ahem.

Enbrethiliel said...


Marellus -- Would you believe I've never seen that version of Pride and Prejudice?

Top Commenter -- I'm totally calling your bluff! Name the band!!! =P

cyurkanin said...

Have to go to bed right now, will leave the viewers on the edge of their seats until later...

Enbrethiliel said...


And I will leave them on the edge of their seats until next week! =P I will post that picture of myself with Persuasion and my new "bookmark."

Thanks for playing! ;-)

the booklady said...

Persuasion is my favorite Austen and I was recently on a Jane-kick. Had to move one because of work-reading commitments (sigh) but oh I do so love her. Thanks for the entertaining post!

Enbrethiliel said...


You're welcome, Booklady! =) The last post will be up in a few days, if you're interested.