Persuasion to Love Austen

Persuasion

All throughout my life as a book reader people suggested Jane Austen’s works to me. While I initially stubbornly refused I eventually turned to the books in my senior year of high school in a realization that people would continue to expect me to read them. Thinking the most famous was the best to start with, I began by reading Pride and Prejudice.

Now Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books in existence, and I had read it only a short while before starting into Pride and Prejudice. Having been recommended both and knowing they were from the 1800’s and written by women, I figured they would be fairly similar. Instead I was distressed to find that Austen’s book simply couldn’t hold a candle to my beloved Jane Eyre.

Now before Austen lovers berate me for my comparison, I will admit I entered in with unrealistic expectations. And I suppose if I read it again I might find it more likeable. However, at the time I decided Austen only wrote about women chasing after men and gossiping and being somewhat annoying.

And then I read Persuasion.

I read it because someone commented that they didn’t think Pride and Prejudice was a very accurate representation of all of Austen’s works. And how right they were.

I related much more to Anne Elliot than I did with Elizabeth Bennet. She was quiet and musical and smart. I liked her personality and enjoyed her story. I am glad to have been able to rethink Jane Austen thanks to this book. I don’t know that I can even truly describe why I love this book, but perhaps its simply because I was more open to it than I was in my first Austen encounter. I simply enjoyed it for the story and the characters and kept some of my critiquing skepticism at bay. Perhaps I need to read Pride and Prejudice again to really see if it was the book, because I strongly suspect it was myself that caused the problem.

However, I think the main thing I’ve learned from reading Persuasion has little to do with the book itself. This was my life lesson this fall: you should never give up on things too soon, and should never define limits of what you will not try. Just because you hate one thing doesn’t mean you’ll hate another.

My friends are often surprised when I sit down to watch movies with them because I am very picky about what movies I like. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t try and enjoy, and I hope I can continue to inspire this attitude for years to come.

I suppose in many ways this attitude fits with Persuasion though not obviously perhaps. Anne has all but given up after falling out with her love, but this story is one of her trying to love again. And how fitting that was in trying an Austen book for a second time.

So I encourage you dear readers to do the same. Expand your limits. Try new things. And don’t let one failure with a genre, or author, or style keep you from ever venturing into that area again. For there is nothing so disappointing as a person unwilling to try new things.

What things have you surprised yourself by liking after a second try? Did you like Austen right from the start? Any feedback you have is wonderful.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Persuasion to Love Austen

  1. I loved Jane Austen right from the start. But that’s because I had watched a lot of the movie adaptations first and knew what to expect. I also adore Jane Eyre. I’ve so far read Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion and while I love them all, Persuasion is definitely my favorite so far. It was an excellent book!

  2. I’ve always loved Jane Austen, but I didn’t really get into ‘Jane Eyre’ at first – possibly for similar reasons to yours…reading one colours your expectations of the other and that can be hard to overcome 🙂

  3. I was too young when I first opened Pride & Prejudice, maybe about 7. I didn’t appreciate the famous opening sentence, and slammed it shut again. Once I did read it, I loved it and Jane. I really like Jane Eyre too, but prefer Pride & Prejudice. I find it to be a much stronger novel than Persuasion. The irony and rich layers of P&P I don’t think are present in Persuasion, which could perhaps be considered unfinished, as Jane worked and reworked endlessly, and it was written toward the end of her life. But it reflects a different time of life, life experience, and pain that Elizabeth is too young for … that may be why it’s a favorite for a number of people. Nonetheless, Elizabeth is my girl. No question I identify more with her than I suppose any other fictional character period. I’ve never really thought to compare P&P or Jane Austen’s work with Jane Eyre. To me they are just different, like short ribs and steak. Both must exist … neither can go away. But in Jane Eyre, I find myself skipping over the agonies of Lowood. P&P is so tight, so perfect, so well-edited … I savor every word.

    • To be honest I think I might find Pride and Prejudice a stronger text in terms of writing if I took the time to read it. But I’ve always been turned off by what is “popular” in some ways. It’s just the way I am, my stubborn personality that my mother would tell you I displayed for an early age. For that reason I think I can never fully appreciate P&P like most people because it has a taint of all the other diehard fans. I am glad other people appreciate it because I certainly cannot. Thanks for sharing your opinion. And as I said, the comparison of Jane Eyre and Austen’s works was a naive childhood assumption before I really understood literature. Today, yes I would say they are very different. And I found myself skipping sections of P&P while instead savoring every bit of Jane Eyre. I think that’s one of the best parts about having so many books in the world, that everyone can have a different favorite.

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