Last month I came up with a TBR for Jane Austen July. I’ve now read Persuasion and Death Comes to Pemberley, so here’s a short review of both:
Jane Austen, Persuasion
It seems strange to write a review of any of Austen’s novels, because they are so well known. Persuasion was a re-read for me, but I’d forgotten all the details, except for the part where Louisa Musgrove falls down that flight of stairs and bashes her head (which is, of course, narrated much more elegantly by Jane Austen).
Anyway, the novel is about Anne Elliot who broke off her engagement with Captain Frederick Wentworth because all her relatives were against the marriage. Wentworth wasn’t good enough for them, not being titled or rich. Anne was 19 at the time and grew to regret her decision. At the time of the novel, she is 27 and basically and old maid. Captain Wentworth has in the meantime been very successful during the Napoleonic Wars, advancing in his career and gaining a fortune and is on the look-out for a wife. Anne meets him in her social circle, but at first tries to avoid him and he pays his attention to other, younger women at first. The novel shows how they come to care for and love each other again.
I wondered why the novel is called Persuasion. According to Wikipedia, Austen referred to is as “The Elliots” but it was published posthumously as Persuasion. It seems clear that the title refers to Anne’s being persuaded to drop her engagement, but I think it can refer to a lot of other cases as well. Sir Walter Elliot, for example, needs to be carefully handled to prevent him from embarking on stupid enterprises – thus he is persuaded that Bath is a better place to reside than London (where he would probably have lived above his means). Anne’s shady cousin William Elliot tries to persuade her to marry him. Foiled, he persuades one Mrs Clay to set up as his mistress when before she had seemed to angle for a marriage to Sir Walter. A foolish decision on her part, but a safeguard for William Elliot (as he wouldn’t inherit Sir Walter’s title and lands if Sir Walter married again and had a son). Mary Musgrove, Anne’s younger sister, who is an attention-seeking hypochondriac, also often needs to be persuaded out of bad moods. The novel is full of such instances of persuasion.
Anne is the nicest and most intelligent member of her family. Her father, Sir Walter and her oldest sister are arrogant fools and her younger sister Mary is an egotistical whiner. Anne’s motherly friend, Lady Russell, is a sympathetic character, but it was partly her advice that led to Anne’s broken engagement – still it seems that she can be persuaded that this was a wrong decision. Anne now clearly sees that the advice she was given was wrong, and Frederick Wentworth grows to understand the constraints under which Anne broke off the engagement. So eventually we get a satisfying resolution, and, on the way, we get a good look at the pretensions and foibles under which the characters labour. It’s very amusing in places and very insightful of human motivation.
P.D. James, Death Comes to Pemberley
P.D. James is probably best known for her Adam Dalgliesh mysteries. I’ve read them all and they are very good – I love P.D. James, she’s one of my favourite writers. I was quite surprised that she had written Death Comes to Pemberley, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. I expected it to be a crime novel with someone investigating a murder, but that’s not what the novel is about.
There is a dead person and it was murder, but the novel looks at the effects the death has on the inhabitants of Pemberley, Elisabeth and Mr. Darcy, Mr. Darcy’s sister Georgiana, the Bingleys (who often visit), as well as the servants instead of focusing on the search for the culprit. It’s very well done, in the manner (if not quite in the style) of Austen.
The story is set a few years after Elisabeth’s and Darcy’s marriage. They have children and are happy. Elisabeth has grown into her role as mistress of Pemberley and the main things on her mind are the upcoming annual ball and Georgiana’s future (she has two suitors). But then her sister Lydia Wickham brings mayhem into the household. There’s a dead body and Wickham is the main suspect and is taken into custody. We are not shown much investigation, but there’s an inquest and later a trial. The resulting unrest (what with having a murder suspect in the family) makes the characters reconsider some of their long-held assumptions and actions done in the past (some reaching back to the events in Pride and Prejudice). The murder is solved in the end (though not by any brilliant investigation) but the real interest of the novel lies in showing the character’s increased self-knowledge and moral growth (especially for Mr. Darcy).
Although the novel differed from what I expected, I thought it was excellent and well worth a read.
I also read the fanfiction on my TBR (it was fun) and watched the film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which was also fun (I wrote about it here). So now I have two more books and one film. Not sure if I will manage both books, but I’ll try.
There has been a lot of flooding in parts of Germany, with a lot of destruction and some deaths, but not where I live, for which I am grateful. It’s been raining all day today, but it was a gentle rain (as opposed to the downpours in those other parts of Germany). It looks like the rain will stop by tomorrow, which is fortunate. My Partner is stuck at his place in North Rhine-Westphalia, because he is surrounded by lot of towns and roads in his area that are affected by the floods. Fortunately, no flooding in his immediate surroundings, as his house is up on a hillside. But the road at the bottom of the hill was flooded (but it has already receded). Some of the worst floods are in Rhineland-Palatinate, where 6 houses were obliterated and many others badly damaged in one small village. Another horrid manifestation of climate change.
Keep safe, world