A couple of weeks ago I took a lovely trip to the library in Morley to pick up some books for this challenge. Although charity shops are serving me remarkably well so far, and I can’t actually walk past one without going in any more, my book collection is rather on the large side already, so it’s probably best if I stick to libraries for a while.
I picked up Persuasion while I was there, and I have to say I was a bit disappointed. Not with the book – the book is fantastic, but with this edition in particular. The book has been restyled as if to fit better in the women’s fiction section; it’s all turquoise with flowers and swirly writing on it. I’m all for updating cover art, but Jane Austen is a pretty respected novelist and surely deserves to be treated as such? When they do the same to Tess of the d’Urbervilles or Vanity Fair, then maybe I could get on board.
Meanwhile, at the end of the book there are the usual extras that you get these days – reading group questions and so on – and they’ve put a couple of pages of quotes in. One is a quote from ‘a reader today’ and says ‘Captain Wentworth is the romantic hero as far as I’m concerned. Darcy can keep his breeches to himself! Here’s this big scary guy who wields the power of life and death over hundreds of men onboard ship, but who is reduced to a blithering wreck by this tiny woman. In the end he lays down all his defences and admits how stupid he’s behaved [sic] in the loveliest of love letters. Perfect.
Why do I love Jane Austen? I’m not sure how she’d have felt about this but I’d love to go for a drink with her. She knows exactly how women really think. We like to think we’re all emancipated but all we actually want is a gorgeous man to adore us for who we are and not how we look.’ Sarah Morrison, Edinburgh.
Now, Sarah Morrison of Edinburgh, I don’t even know you. You may have been completely misquoted, or alternatively you may have been high when you said this. But if you said it, and meant it, then I have to ask – have you even read any of Austen’s novels? Almost all of them mock how ridiculous it is that women are so dependent on men in her society. Did you know her first serious piece of writing was a novella about a sexually predatory woman who uses and abuses everyone around her? And as an unmarried woman who turned down one proposal, and a professional writer who devoted all her time to her craft, could you really say that all she wanted, as a woman, was a gorgeous man? Please.
Anyway, that over, I highly recommend Persuasion! I hadn’t read it before, and loved the heroine Anne Elliot, and loved the comic characters that she comes across. She’s a really likeable lead, if a bit worthy, and I really wanted things to work out for her. This is the third sensible, realistic, practical heroine I’ve read in the last month and I could get used to it! It’s gorgeously romantic without being too sickening. I’ll definitely be reading this again!