Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Annotated Persuasion by Jane Austen (edited by David M. Shapard)


Best. Book.  EVER.

You know, I complain to myself all the time that the combination of blogging, book groups, and a library job have killed all my time for rereading, but I am so glad I made an exception and read this again.  I've read Persuasion several times (and watched the movies more times than I can count), and I still can't get enough of this book.  It's my favorite Jane Austen novel, EVER.  My apologies to Lizzie and Darcy, but Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth are her most romantic couple.  

Basically, here's the setup:  Anne Elliot is 27 and unmarried; when she was 19, she fell in love with Frederick Wentworth, a poor but promising naval officer.  Her family and friends persuaded her to break off the engagement, but she has never stopped loving Wentworth.  Now, he's successful and back in the picture -- but does he still love her?  And can he forgive her for her earlier rejection?

This is Austen's final novel, written just before she died, herself unmarried at the age of 41.  It's a little melancholy, but to my mind also the most romantic of the novels.  There is some great comic relief, some satire, and some deliciously nasty characters as well.  Of all her novels, I think this is the one with the most social commentary, especially regarding class and rank.  

If you are a Jane Austen fan (and I assume if you've read this far, you are) I cannot stop recommending David Shaphard's Annotated editions of these novels.  These are amazing -- the novel itself is on the left-hand pages, and every right hand facing pages has corresponding explanatory notes -- vocabulary, history, drawings of items in Jane Austen's world (now I know exactly what kind of ships Wentworth sailed on!), etc., etc.  The notes also delve deeper into some of the social conventions on the time, and they include commentary on why certain plot devices do or don't work, minor plot holes, etc.  

HOWEVER -- I must point out that if you have NOT read all of Jane Austen's works, I would not read these editions -- the explanatory notes also include spoilers -- and not only for this book, but for her other books as well!!  For example, a note might mention that "Such and such turns out to be _________, just like ________ in her other book, "____________." So, if you are not familiar with the major plot points Jane Austen's novels, I'd recommend waiting until you've read all the books first.  

But if you're a Jane Austen fan who's read all the books like me, please, do yourself a favor, and get these!  You will not be sorry.  So far Shaphard has also annotated Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility (which I'm reading right now); Emma is scheduled for publication in the spring.  Hopefully Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey won't be far behind.

18 comments:

  1. I didn't realize Shepard was annotating Emma in the spring!! Can't wait! (I love his Austen "translations." I've read two so far, and an annotated P&P by a different author.)

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  2. Jillian -- is that annotated P&P the one by Patrice Meyer Spacks? I saw it in the library and was tempted, but I'm going to have to wait. How was it? And which Shaphard annotations have you read?

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  3. These sound fantastic! I've never been able to get into Emma, but maybe the annotated version would make it more enjoyable for me ... I'll look for it in the spring.

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  4. We just did Persuasion for my book club and now I wish I had read this version. I think I'll read the Sense and Sensibility annotated one next.

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  5. I was just looking at this in Barnes & Noble over the weekend, and I put it back on the shelf - I may need to rethink that...

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  6. The annotated P&P is waiting in my pile, but it's high time to reread Persuasion too!

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  7. You've inspired me to re-read Persuasion. My favourites are still Pride and Prejudice and Emma but I am happy to be persauded into a different choice :-)

    Ill also keep an eye out for those annotated versions. I have a giant book that has all of her fiction in one, so its a lot to carry around.

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  8. I really want this! Persuasion is by far my favorite Austen, too, and I'm planning a reread in December. :)

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  9. You should come over and discuss your Persuasion opinions on my blog - I've done my third post for the Persuasion read along and will be doing another this weekend. It has surprised me how many people love Persuasion - I always feel like the only person banging its drum!

    You have intrigued me by this annotated edition - I wish I'd have had it to read this time around!

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  10. Persuasion is my second favourite novel (after Mansfield Park - I know, I'm weird) - it certainly sounds worth trying an annotated edition.

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  11. Hmmm...I'm thinking this may go on my Christmas wish list!

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  12. I think Persuasion is her most romantic novel too! :D I wasn't a huge fan of the Annotated P&P, but I might have to give the Annotated Persuasion a go just for the navy bits. Yay for seafaring stuff! (And I'm rereading Northanger Abbey at moment...it makes me want to just go on an Austen binge!)

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  13. I still have three Austens left to go, so I'll save the annotated editions for then! Persuasion is one of then, though, and I want to make sure I read it before the end of the year.

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  14. I definitely need to read these. Sense & Sensibility is my least favorite, so maybe I'll start with that. I am always hoping that a reread will reveal that the first time I read it was just a fluke.

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  15. Anbolyn -- they are just wonderful. Of course now I'll have to reread P&P and then Emma next spring! I hope it's not too long for the NA and MP editions.

    Mrs. B. -- I'm reading the S&S edition right now and it's wonderful, but on the chunky side -- with notes it's more than 700 pages (but some of the pages of notes have a lot of white space or illustrations).

    Lisa May -- I saw lots of these at Borders during the clearance and I'm so sorry I didn't buy them then. Oh well, B&N will benefit.

    JoAnn -- I love them both. When I reread P&P it may become my favorite again.

    Becky -- I'm always tempted to get a big combined edition, but they're huge! I'm sure I'd fall asleep reading and smother myself.

    Carrie -- It's just wonderful, you may end up rereading all the books.

    Book Snob -- sorry, I keep meaning to comment on your blog! I think there are a lot of Persuasion fans though of course P&P is so popular. S&S is pretty wonderful also.

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  16. Tracy -- I look forward to the Annotated MP, I hope it will make me appreciate it more. I loved the 1999 movie but I think Fanny is a little more annoying in the book.

    Shelley -- I got my copy from the library but it's on the top of my Christmas list already. Can't wait for Emma.

    Eva -- My book group is rereading P&P next year so I'll definitely be reading the annotated editions. There's also another giant hardcover version by another editor, so I may check that one out as well.

    Nymeth -- they are so worth reading! Persuasion is one of the shortest novel, but it's really satisfying. A great love story.

    ReviewsbyLola -- I'm really enjoying S&S much more this time around. I'm also listening to the brilliant audiobook narrated by Juliet Stevenson, who is just wonderful. She played Mrs. Elton in the 1996 Emma, and it's one of the best audiobooks I've ever heard.

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  17. i really want this! persuasion is my favorite austen and one of my favorite novels of all time. i think it's so romantic- her most passionate book actually!

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  18. I have only just read this book through booksnob's blog. My first Austen and I loved it.

    I am definitely going to read more now, but I think this will always be my favourite.

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