Book Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

I recently reread the Austenland duology, which put me in the spirit for some of the real thing.  I’ve reread a fair amount of Jane Austen in the not too distant past, but it had been a long time for Persuasion, so I decided to listen to the audiobook.

Persuasion follows the story of Anne Elliot, who is seven-and-twenty and unmarried (horror!)  In her youth, she loved a sailor, Captain Wentworth, but was persuaded it was an unwise match.  She gave him up, but misses him still.  Now he’s back in England, a wealthy and successful man, but seems quite cold to her when they begin to move in the same social circles.

This is the main plot thread, but Persuasion is full of family dramas involving Anne’s two rather unlikable sisters, foolish father, and host of in-laws.  This book is so very Austen, in that for whole stretches not a great deal happens besides going for walks and having intensive debates about relative ranks in social circles.  It’s an interesting social study, and the soothing kind of book where you know nothing very bad is going to happen–despite a life-threatening injury to one character, and financial crises of others.

Anne is a bit of a puzzle to me.  She’s unfailingly kind and sensible, with a genius for putting up with other people’s foibles and still liking them (in the case of her sisters, for example).  She’s not as witty as Elizabeth Bennet, but also not quite so self-effacing as Fanny Price (who I actually like, though I believe I’m a minority!)  I got frustrated with her at times though, I think because I brought modern sensibilities to a very different social setting.  Anne encounters Captain Wentworth–misses him–wonders how he feels about her–and does nothing!  But I imagine there was nothing much for a well-bred young lady of the time to do, and perhaps Austen’s original readers would have taken that for granted. Continue reading

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Blog Hop: On Happiness

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Can you say this about yourself? Nothing makes me happier than sitting down with a good book.

Hmm.  This seems like the kind of pat statement that is a little true of a lot of people, and wholly true of not very many.  Sitting down with a good book makes me happy–there are times and moods when it will make me happier than anything else in that moment–but does nothing make me happier?

My husband makes me happier than a good book.  So does my family and my friends.  It makes me very happy when the opening orchestrations begin of Phantom of the Opera performed live on stage.  Writing at its best makes me happier than reading–though it also requires more energy, and at its most challenging causes me more frustration than reading.  Music is a good mood lift, and I have TV shows I like to watch when I’m stressed because they make me happy.  But it’s also true that reading brings happiness into my life, that finding a good book makes me very happy, and I’m not as happy in general if I’m not making time to read.

So I guess I’d say, there are times when nothing makes me happier than sitting down with a good book.  But there are many other things in life that have the potential to make me happier than even the best book.

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Writing Wednesday: The Vicomte de Chagny

In revisions for my Phantom trilogy, I’ve been working on the scene that introduces Raoul de Chagny, Christine’s love interest–one of them!  We see him through Meg’s eyes in my novel and…he probably doesn’t come off as well as he does in some versions!  Here are her initial impressions, which probably sum up my portrayal of him rather well.

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I was about to ask her directly if she was looking for someone, when her hand closed around my arm and I saw that her gaze had settled on the far end of the Dance Foyer.  “Do you know that man?  The one talking to Sorelli?”

This could be the answer to the question I hadn’t asked.  I looked for Sorelli in the direction of Christine’s gaze.  The lead ballerina was easy to spot in her vivid red gown, talking to two men dressed in somber grays.  The older one was a usual visitor to the Foyer, and with a little thought I recalled the younger man’s name too.  “That’s Philippe, the Comte de Chagny, and his younger brother the vicomte, Raoul.  The comte and Sorelli have been, you know, keeping company for years.”  Surely Christine couldn’t have been looking for him.

“But Raoul,” she said in a low voice, “what do you think about him?”

“I don’t, usually.  I guess he’s nice enough.”  Continue reading

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Book Review: Jane Unlimited

I don’t often pick books up at random anymore, but I chanced to see an interesting title at the library the other day.  It turned out to be an excellent find: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore.

Nineteen-year-old Jane is an orphan who recently lost her beloved Aunt Magnolia, who raised her.  Jane is unmoored and drifting when she bumps into Kiran, an old acquaintance, who on a whim invites Jane to come to Tu Reviens.  This is Kiran’s family estate, a mansion on a private island.  Jane doesn’t want to go, but her Aunt Magnolia made her promise to accept an invitation to Tu Reviens if it ever came.  It proves to be a mansion full of mysteries, and every person there has secrets.  Jane soon finds herself at a crossroads, a seemingly insignificant moment when she can choose which mystery to pursue.  Jane only can see one choice–at a time–but the reader gets to see what happens as each choice takes her down a completely different path, dividing the bulk of the book into five sections, each exploring a different direction.

This is a masterfully created book, and as a writer I am genuinely in awe at how Cashore pulled this off.  Each section of the book follows its own story, but it’s clear that all the elements from each section are happening in all of them–Jane just has different information, or sees different pieces.  Later sections still have references relevant to earlier ones, and early ones have clues that aren’t explained until later ones.  It’s incredible.

Equally as fun, I realized as I went through the book that each section is a different genre: mystery, spy thriller, horror, science fiction, and fantasy.  Each one is beautifully done, both for its genre and as part of a larger, cohesive whole.  The horror section was suitably horrifying, and the sci fi story added a little bit of meta explanation for the book’s structure–sort of. Continue reading

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Blog Hop: Perchance to Dream

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Have you ever had a bookish, nocturnal dream? If so, please share the story. If not, have you ever had a daydream related to books? If so, please tell us about it.

I have always found it surprising how rarely I have dreams related to books, especially my own, considering how much waking time I spend thinking about them!  For the amount of time he spends in my thoughts, the Phantom of the Opera ought to stalk through my dreams on a regular basis, and yet I think he’s appeared…maybe twice?  In twelve years.  I can’t say with any certainty that I’ve ever dreamed about the characters or the world of my fairy tale quartet.  Other people’s books have not shown up any more often.

As for daydreams–well, most of my stories play out in my head before they ever get onto paper, and I don’t mean while I’m sitting in front of my computer.  The more clearly a scene is imagined, the easier it is when I start physically writing (because the imagining feels like a stage of writing).  Some imagined scenes never get written down, and I never feel a desire to imagine a scene after it’s written–it’s like it’s locked in place then, and there isn’t the same range for mental playing.

Considering how much I imagine consciously, I’ve always found it strange that my subconscious doesn’t utilize the same characters and settings.  And kind of a shame–I think that would be fun!

Do you have dreams inspired by books, once you’ve read or written?  Have you had daydreams even if you haven’t had sleeping ones?

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