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Book Report: Persuasion

Your Humble Blogger is not a Jane Austen fan particularly. In fact, I don’t know that I had read anything other then Pride and Prejudice before picking up Persuasion a couple of weeks ago. I have to admit I am familiar with her stuff mostly through adaptations: I’ve seen at least three Pride and Prejudices, the Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility, and most recently the Persuasion from 1995. That was what provoked me into picking up the book; I was wondering how good a job they did of the adaptation. Y’all know I am keen on the process of adaptation.

Well, and also, it was nice to be able to take a copy home, and know that if I had a free half-hour in the library (say, a lunch break) I could certainly walk up to the shelf and pick out a copy. That makes it convenient.

The adaptation does appear to have been well done, by the way. There was nothing substantial that I feel was left out unnecessarily, and the characters felt pretty good. The main problem with the adaptation was that the main character was terribly wet, just altogether uninteresting and limp. On the other hand, that’s my main problem with the book. So there’s that. I don’t think the book version of the character is quite as useless as the movie version, but they both suffer from the Kate Nickleby problem, that is,everybody is attracted to them except the reader.

The adaptation also had what I call the Pride and Prejudice problem, where there is a Main Character who is the Plain One, and a supporting character who is the Pretty One. In a film or television adaptation, there is simply no way that the actress playing the main character is going to be plain, and it is quite unusual for everyone to allow the supporting character to be substantially better-looking than the main character. Generally, what you wind up with is a pair of women either of whom would turn heads on a sidewalk; any plot point that depends on the Plain One languishing un-noticed in a corner whilst all the men pay their attentions to the Pretty One have to rely on the viewer’s acceptance of the convention. The Persuasion adaptation does have a simple solution that the novel makes possible: they simply ignore the novel’s description of the older sister and make her conspicuously plain. You do lose some of the Jane Austen bit where that character has no suitors despite her beauty because, after all, she’s a horrible snob and a shallow doll, but then it’s not a plot point, so removing her beauty doesn’t pull out the wrong Jenga block.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Yup, that was my feeling about Persuasion too--kind of "enh". Felt the same way about Emma, actually (though I never saw the movie Clueles and don't know how it fares as an adaptation). I appreciate Austen's writing but her stories don't really do much for me.

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