I started this a few weeks ago on a bus ride to Chicago and finished it the next day on the way home. (The bus rides were the beginning and end of a two-day field trip for my library buildings class. More on that later.)
All in all it was probably a 4 or 5-hour read, expedited by the fact that I’ve seen the BBC-produced movie multiple times, and it’s very faithful to the book. (I always feel a little guilty for watching the movie of a classic before I read the book. It makes reading the book so much easier, and it seems like reading the Classics ought to be painful, or it doesn’t really count.)
There were a few things missing from the movie that I enjoyed picking up on in the book. One was Admiral Croft’s reaction to Sir William (“the baronet will never set the Thames on fire”), which is a charming foil to Sir William’s reaction to the Admiral (that if the Admiral would find someone else to do his hair, Sir William “should not be ashamed of being seen with him any where”).
In many ways, Persuasion is a much more mature love story than other Jane Austen stories. Unlike Emma and Sense and Sensibility, there is no “wise, patient man educating the immature young girl” dynamic. There’s no Pride and Prejudice-type bickering, no unfortunate engagement to a girl from Plymouth. It’s just a case of two mature people who were once in love and then ended up hurting each other deeply through stubbornness and inexperience, and who are just trying to figure out if they can make things work again.
Of course, reading a story about an “old maid” of 26 years is a little disheartening. On the one hand, she certainly ends up happy, even though every one has given up on her (including herself). On the other hand, we don’t all have a Captain Wentworth in our past to come back for us. True, the situation of a modern single girl isn’t nearly as bleak as that of one in Jane Austen’s day – some of us can become spinster librarians! – but the prospects of a single Mormon girl of “a certain age” aren’t nearly so rosy. I wonder if Jane Austen’s popularity among Mormon girls is due in large part to the fact that we, too, live in a marry-or-perish world.