Ok, so if you read my 2015 Book List, you may recall my statement that the first book I ended up reading this year was not on the list. (Is anyone dying to know what book I read first yet? Am I doing this whole suspense thing right?) Today, let me just catch you up on what I've read since January 1st and do a little summarizing.
The first book I read this year was *drumroll, please*......... Persuasion by Jane Austen! This was not a first-time read for me. Jane Austen is quite possibly my favorite authoress of all time, and I've read all 7 of her complete novels. You can bet your butt that you will be able to find at least one of Austen's novels on all my book lists for years to come. (Unless I'm re-reading the Anne of Green Gables series that year. I mean, if there was such a thing as death by too much literary goodness in a year, I don't want to push it.) So why, after putting Sense & Sensibility on this year's list, did I pick up Persuasion and read it like I hadn't even made any reading goals for myself? Well, the answer is simple really. I got the movie. And anyone with even a kernel of sense in her head knows that the book is always better. This is a rule that I have yet to find any exceptions to. And the truth is, I haven't read Persuasion in 4 or 5 years. It's fantastic, but it's not my go-to Austen. So I wanted the written word to be fresh in my mind before I watched the film. I finished reading it January 12th.
Let's summarize: our heroine in Persuasion is quiet, unselfish Anne Elliot, the middle of 3 daughters born to Sir Walter Elliot. Her mother died when she was 14, and she, unlike her ridiculous and vain father and sisters, drew close to and was greatly influenced by her mother's close friend Lady Russell. About the time she was 19 years old, Anne met and fell irrevocably in love with Captain Frederick Wentworth, but being persuaded (get it?) by Lady Russell and her family (mainly Lady Russell), she chose prudently rather than passionately and regretted her decision for years to come. Our story opens 8 years after all this transpired and through a series of events, she and Captain Wentworth are thrown back into each other's company for the first time since she rejected his proposal. **Spoiler Alert: they end up together, duh.**
Persuasion is a study in the merits and the defects of a resolute will. Should Anne have tossed all advice and logic to the wind and run off with Wentworth? Or was she wise to have heeded the advice of her elder? If you are a first-time Austen reader, I would not recommend beginning with Persuasion. (Sorry, Jon!) Although I love Jane Austen unconditionally and all her books suck me in every time, I would not want Persuasion to be my introduction to this hero of the literary world. Anne's timidity and faint-heartedness can be a bit annoying and the wrap-up is somewhat hurried. (Probably due to the fact that Persuasion was written in a race against Jane Austen's failing health in the last year of her life.) If you are looking to ease yourself gently into the wonderful world of Austen, I would recommend Sense & Sensibility if you want a really well-developed, masterful novel, or Emma or Northanger Abbey if you want something shorter and hilarious. (I guess you could start with Pride & Prejudice...it would just be so cliché of you. I mean, there's a reason everyone loves it, but really?)
As far as the movie is concerned, it was a pretty good adaptation of Persuasion. I took issue with a few liberties they took at the end, but overall, it wasn't bad. (P.S. I got the 1995 version starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds.)
Now, I realize this post is starting to get a bit lengthy, but let me give you a super-quick recap of the second publication I read this year: William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. It is one of my life goals to read all of Shakespeare's plays before I die. To date, the only plays I have read in their entirety are Romeo & Juliet and Julius Caesar. Both of which were required reading in high school. (Let's not bring up how many years ago that was.) Much Ado About Nothing is a play centered around 4 principal characters: Claudio (a young lord of Florence), Benedick (a sworn bachelor), Hero (the virgin daughter of Leonato), and Beatrice (Hero's cousin who is disdainful of men and marriage). The play was short and funny, full of intrigue, match-making, and teasing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It took me a few days to read it because, let's get real, we don't talk like Shakespeare anymore, and, although the language is beautiful, it can be a little tough to wade through. I would highly recommend this to anyone desirous of diving into the world of Shakespeare but unsure of where to begin. It was fun. I finished reading it January 16th.
What do you think? Have you read Persuasion or Much Ado About Nothing? Any other Austen die-hards out there? Shakespeare fans, is there a better play to start with? Blow up my comment section.