Monday, December 29, 2014

Post 3: A Book I Love


I guess I'm just glad it was worded as "A Book I Love" not "The" or "Favorite". 

Growing up in a house full of books, with an English major mother who introduced me to the Sneetches and Harry and Frodo and Mary Lennox and Jo March at a young age, books are an incredibly precious and important part of me. 
There are just so many books.

In fact, I would go so far as to say I don't have a 'favorite book.'
I really don't.
I suppose I have a list of literary works that touched me or resonated with me more than others. And I certainly have a longer list of books I would (and have) reread in a heartbeat. But is there one book to rule them all? For me, no. I don't think there is. 


Every girl goes through her Jane Austen phase. 
Most find it enough to fall in love with Mr. Darcy, to identify with Elizabeth, and to roll their eyes at the insufferably silly Lydia. Maybe some go deeper and find the dramatic experiences of both Dashwood sisters enthralling, or they find themselves wrapped up in the drama Emma Woodhouse creates for herself. There are a few who even overlook the now-days inherent creepiness of Fanny falling for cousin Edmund. [No one likes Northanger Abbey :) ] But--and I swear I'm not attempting to be some sort of Austen elitist, because I'm not and I've fallen for Darcy, Brandon, Ferrers, Knightley, and Bertram many times myself--I don't often find many people who list Anne Elliot and her decade-long search for love as their absolute favorite. 

I don't remember when I first read Persuasion, but I'm pretty sure it came after Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and for sure Mansfield Park. It maybe came before Emma, but it was definitely the least-known Austen novel I attempted. 

Short synopsis--with maybe a few spoilers, I don't know, I think it's sort of difficult to 'spoil' any of Austen's work--is this: Anne Elliot is the middle daughter of a self-important, ridiculous used-to-be rich man. To bookend her, she's got a self-absorbed elder sister, and a hypochondriac younger sister. Her mother died when she was young, leaving her silly father to govern things by himself; in doing so, they lose the family home Anne loves more than anything. In order to keep themselves afloat somehow, the wise Anne--with the assistance of a mostly sensible family friend--convinces her father to rent the house to a suitable tenant; in this case, a retired Navy colonel and his wife. Lo and behold, this colonel's wife happens to be related to Captain Wentworth, a man whose name brings on a near panic attack when Anne first hears it. Back when Anne was still considered 'young' and 'hopeful', they had been in love. He had proposed, she'd wanted to say yes, but had allowed herself to be persuaded by her family and the "well-meaning" family friend to reject him, mostly because of his then-status as lowly navyman. Essentially, she broke his heart--and her own--and the two had parted, never to see each other again, and Anne convinced she would remain alone and unloved for the rest of her life. 

Through a series of various events, Anne and Wentworth find themselves frequently in each other's company. It is obvious Anne is still in love with him, but she--and we, as the readers--are forced to watch him gallivant about with the youngest Elliot sister's 2 very silly sisters-in-law. At one point, Anne is courted by the heir to her father's title, Wentworth is apparently 'promise-engaged' (those were weird times, man) and you think, for just a minute, that maybe these two people--who have lived almost a decade alone in regret and heartbreak--might not actually end up together!

I'll let you read it to discover the ending, because I promise, it's far better and much more interesting than the pitiful synopsis I gave above.

I think one of the main reasons I like this story so much is because it is not a typical 'girl gets the guy' story. Yes, Elinor Dashwood's up and down romance is exhausting, but it's only over the course of a year or so. Anne has a chance at happiness, turns it down, then spends the next ten years or so living in regret and solitude. She wonders if she's missed her chance, but even she gets a happy ending--even if it takes a little longer than others. 

I also just love Anne. 
As much as I love Elizabeth's wit and fire, or Emma's confidence, Elinor's good sense, and Marianne's sense of romance, I think I admire Anne more.

She's steady and sensible; she lives surrounded by vain and vapid people, but she keeps her sense of morality and intelligence throughout it all. She suffers a lot, but keeps most of it hidden; she doesn't allow the hardships of her life to drag her down. She selflessly gives whatever is needed; she connects with those who need it most. She learns from her mistakes, and decides that she will never allow herself to be 'so easily persuaded again.' She is put in the situation of seeing the man she loves flirt and be flirted with every single day, but she keeps going, stays pleasant, and reminds herself to stay strong. Because of this, I think she is the one of Austen's heroines who truly deserves everything she gets in the end. 

I love this book for what it is, but I also love it because it's the lesser known sibling to the ever popular Pride and Prejudice. It also offers a different presentation of romance; the idea that it may take years to find your true love and sometimes you get second chances. 

Honorable Mentions:
The Life of Pi - Yann Martel
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
The Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
The Lord of the Rings trilogy - JRR Tolkien
The Book of Mormon
Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
Seabiscuit - Laura Hillenbrand

and many 

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