Persuasion on the Road

Or, Confessions of a Jane Austen fan.

I have always loved the Jane Austen books I read–Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma. But I confess that 2 were often hard for me to read: Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. So earlier this spring, I set out to try Persuasion again. In 6 weeks I waded through only 7 chapters, and let’s just say I wasn’t enthralled. It seemed like the sentence construction in this book was just too convoluted for me to get my brain around. So, I took Persuasion with me on our cross-country trek to MT. After a few hours of driving when boredom was beginning to set in for Mark, I said, “Hey, I could read Persuasion out loud to you.” Mark agreed to the plan, and we were off.

After just 2 pages of my reading aloud, we were both laughing at the ridiculous Sir Walter Elliot. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t see the humor in this book in earlier attempts to read it. By the time we arrived in MT, we were on chapter 8. We finished Persuasion on our return trip in Columbia, MO. So now I can add it to my list of Jane Austen novels read. Now I have to work on Northanger Abbey. I think it is supposed to be a parody of the Brontes and all their “gothicness.” Perhaps the parody notion will help me conquer NA this year, too. We’ll see. . . . .

9 thoughts on “Persuasion on the Road”

  1. Yay! I’m proud of you! These two are my favorites! A couple years ago, I read them all back-to-back and though I couldn’t tell you why now, I had catalogued Persuasion and Northanger Abbey as my faves. I want to read them all again!

    Was it difficult to read aloud? I’ve never tried Austen outloud….

    Welcome home.

  2. It was sort of difficult to read aloud because of the aforementioned convoluted sentence construction. But, reading it out loud helped me to hear the meaning of the sentences instead of trying to skip over the difficult construction like I am prone to do when I read silently.

    I think Persuasion is now one of my favorites, too. Mansfield Park is my other favorite. I’ll have to wait and see how NA goes.

    We’re glad to be home. Thanks for the welcome.

  3. Ok – I tried reading Persuasion a couple of summers ago – it’s short, right? Should be easy, right? But I found the same trouble you did. I think I finished it, but it didn’t make much of an impression on me. I saw the movie during the PBS Austen event this spring – maybe I should try again and read it aloud to Phil! (I read him most of Sense & Sensibility and he enjoyed that.)
    As for Northanger Abbey, I saw that also on the PBS special – they made it kind of racy…. I wonder how true to the book it was…

  4. Mark – Thanks. Now everyone else: “Ahhh.” (How cheesey!)

    Jennifer – The copy of Persuasion I have is a mass-market paperback (the small kind) with 225 pages. If Phil enjoyed your reading S & S, he will probably like Persuasion aloud as well.

    Re: NA, I’ll let you know what I think of the book when I read it. I have a book of 2 Jane Austen short stories that I plan to read next.

  5. NA is a parody not of the Brontes, who wrote a couple of decades later, but of the gothic romances that were popular at the time Austen was writing. The Mrs. Radcliffe mentioned as an authoress in NA was a real, and very popular, author of the time. “The Mysteries of Udolpho” which forms Catherine’s imaginative background was a real novel.

    It’s a parody and a satire on several levels. Not only does it mock the excesses of the gothics through Catherine’s naivete and expectation of the real world working like the gothic one, but ultimately the theme is Catherine’s blindness to real, moral evil because she is so young, sheltered, and inexperienced as to believe that evil is always dramatic and violent, hidden behind dark curtains and dripping with blood, and not the pedestrian, smooth-talking reality that it usually is. This confusion of gothic evil for moral evil endangers her, but ultimately she figures it out. Using the medium of comic satire and parody, it’s really a coming of age story!

  6. Thanks Pentamom. Other than feeling a little embarrassed
    that I had the time frame for the Brontes wrong in relation to Austen, I appreciate your insight. Your thoughts make me more anxious to read the book.

  7. If you’re still reading this, this much later…. 🙂

    I forgot to mention that the “raciness” in the movie version was implied in the book, but not so explicit. That is, the more explicit reading that was discussed, and the more sensual depictions that occurred in the movie, “could have” occurred to Jane Austen’s characters, given the way the story was written, but Austen was not explicit about it. Austen’s writing was always very restrained, of course, but it seems possible to me that her contemporaries, knowing the popular literature of the time, and knowing how people behave, might have read into her writing exactly what the film depicted, and she may have intended it that way. It’s hard to tell from this distance whether some of her language might have been euphemistic idioms that to us convey much less to us than it might have to one of her contemporary readers.

    If that makes sense.

  8. I get an e-mail when new comments are posted, so I saw this.

    I think you are right. It seems a lot of things are implied in Jane Austen’s books. But I think movie producers could restrain themselves a bit, too.

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