Persuasion (CBR7 #49)

I finally finished my reread of Persuasion as part of the Go Fug Yourself Bookclub on Goodreads. It wasn’t my first choice, but it was nice to visit a known favorite and bring some new understandings to why this book works for me.

As expected, I loved it. It’s probably unfair really since Persuasion has such a particular place in my literary heart. It’s the first Austen that I read of my own choosing and reminds me of a specific place and time. We read both Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility in high school and I fell a little in love with Austen from the get go (I’ve chronicled my love of Austen elsewhere).  So, on a study abroad trip to Oxford I picked up copies of all the Austen works I could find. Persuasion became the first I read of that collection and the one I love the most as a complete work.

Jane Austen has stronger heroines, and more overtly or dashing romantic heroes, but there is something so honest, real, and relatable about the tale of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. There are bigger, more grand moments in other novels, and Austen plays with literary devices and satirizes the novels of her day in her other works. But in Persuasion I’ve always felt that she is telling the most honest story she embarks on. We all know these characters – we have our own Marys, our own Sir Walters, our own Lady Russells, and our own Crofts. While Wentworth is the sort of romantic lead who works for me, and that letter, and his revelations of the last couple of chapters make me feel for him even more, I am more invested in this novel for the slice of life it offers on display than for the romance (even though I would list this in my top 50 romance reads if I ever get around to making such a list).

And in approaching this novel at this time in my life, no longer the young girl who pines artfully, but as the woman who still hopes and struggles to find her place, I have even more affection for Anne. She is both an injured party and the injurer. Yet, she takes no offense and shirks no blame. She doesn’t expect others to be more than they are capable of being, and owns the errors she has made and expects only what life has to bring her. Austen uses her narrator to skewer the rest of Anne’s family, but never Anne. Not because she is without sin, but because she is a fully actualized human aware of the foibles of the world.  We should all be so lucky to be an Anne Elliot and loved by a Captain Wentworth.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.


The Tall Pine Polka (CBR5 #26)

After a rough reading year, in which I will only be completing a half cannonball instead of the full cannonball I signed up for (but I feel okay about it since last year I signed up for a half cannonball and managed to complete the full cannonball), I decided to make my 26th book one that I know I love: The Tall Pine Polka by Lorna Landvik. This is the only book of hers that I have ever read. But I have read it at least half a dozen times in as many years.

It arrived to me as a hand-me-down. My mother’s friend gave it to her to read, and when she was done she passed it off to me. I have not passed it to anyone since.

The story focuses on Fenny and her loyal group of compatriots. Her social life revolves around her friends at the Cup O’Delight and their Polka Nights. The hub of this social wheel is Fenny’s closest friend: Lee O’Leary the proprietor of the cafe. This group is made up of the resident lesbian couple, the mayor, the shoe repairman, Heine, and the self-described poet who no one can really stand just to name a few. Fenny lives a quiet life in the northern woods of Minnesota with her friends, until a scout for a movie sees her in her family’s store and decides that she is the living embodiment of the lead character.

What follows is a sometimes disjointed, but far more emotionally investing, story of what the change in Fenny’s life does to the overall picture of whom she is and the life she is going to lead. More characters join the crows, locations change, and lots of big life events take place. Some relatively minor with lasting impacts, others the matter of life and death. This book reads the way life plays out, once you take being discovered by Hollywood out of the equation. We’ve all known someone with an abusive spouse, a lover who isn’t telling you the whole story, a job you landed that you likely weren’t completely qualified for, and knowing that you’ve missed someone’s heart along the way. But somehow, we make ourselves a life, and Fenny and the rest of these well drawn characters do the same. They make a life.

So, if you want an easy read with some fantastic characters pick this up. But make sure to brew a pot of coffee or tea, because the amount of caffeine these characters consume will make you jealous.