I can’t stand it anymore! Tell me the end!

Who wrote this book and when?
Jane Austen. This was her final completed novel and was published after her death. It appeared as a novel in 1818.

Has there been a film version?
Three so far. One in 1960, one in 1971, and one in 1995. All were made in association with BBC and as miniseries. The one made in 1995 starring Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds is by FAR the best version. I highly recommend you watch it after reading the book – it’s impeccably done, despite being very simplified. However, a new version is due out in 2007, starring one of my favorite Buffy actors – Anthony Steward Head. Oh goody!

Who are the important characters?
Anne Elliot – the middle daughter of the Elliot family, she fell in love with Frederick Wentworth eight years before the time of this novel and has never gotten over him
Captain Frederick Wentworth – a Captain in the navy and the former suitor of Anne, very bitter about her rejection of him
Louisa Musgrove – Anne’s single sister in law, very pretty and vivacious
Mr. William Elliot – Anne’s cousin and the heir to their baronet, until recently estranged to their family due to his poor choice in marriage. He is now a widower.
Lady Russell – a dear family friend to the Elliots and especially to Anne, she wants the best for Anne socially and tries to act as her mother, she has great influence over her
Admiral and Sofia Croft – the couple who takes up residence in Kellynch Hall, the former home of the Elliots, Sofia is Captain Wentworth’s sister
Sir Walter Elliot – Anne’s father, very vain and believes himself the best looking man in England
Elizabeth Elliot – Anne’s elder sister, also very vain and the former romantic attachment of William Elliot
Mrs. Clay – a poor widow who has attached herself to Elizabeth with the intent of flattering Sir Walter into marrying her
Mrs. Smith – a poor, widowed and crippled former schoolmate of Anne’s who is in Bath for health reasons
Captain Benwick – a man whose fiancee died while he was at sea, very melancholy, living with…
Captain Harville – a crippled man who is a friend of Captain Wentworth

What’s it about?
Anne Elliot is the youngest daughter of a very proud man. Her father, Sir Walter, is a widower and since the death of his wife, has managed his money very poorly. Now, due to his debts, he is forced to retrench – in other words, move from his recognized baronet of Kellynch Hall to Bath, and rent his house out to Admiral and Mrs. Croft. Nearly eight years before all this, a Mr. Frederick Wentworth pursued Anne’s hand in marriage. The two were deeply in love and it was only the influence of the family friend, Lady Russell, which kept Anne from marrying him.

Now, Anne is sent to visit her married sister, Mary Musgrove. Mary is a hypochondriac who has much of the “Elliot pride,” pride in good looks and title. Anne places very little stock in either, believing herself to be past her “bloom” or time of beauty, and humiliated by her family’s pride and spending habits. Suddenly, Captain Wentworth, now made rich by the war with Napolean, returns to the area. He seems cold and distant, and Anne is constantly fighting her feelings for him, believing he has completely lost interest in her. Instead, his attentions are turning to the Miss Musgroves – particularly the younger daughter Louisa. Louisa has everything Anne once had, beauty, vitality, courage, and tenacity – except no common sense. After several small incidents where Captain Wentworth seems to show preference for Louisa over Anne, she believes all hope of reconciliation is lost. She struggles to get over the man she once passionately loved, and it might just be possible with the fortuitous appearance of a new, handsome and very charming suitor.

Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
It’s an Austen novel.

Do you recommend I read this book?
Yes, very much. And afterwards, please watch the 1995 version of the movie. It’s incredible.

Why did this book make your list?
I want to read all the Jane Austen novels.

Has it won any awards?
No – pre award publication.

Favorite quotes:
“Anne had never seen her father and sister before in contact with nobility, and she must acknowledge herself disappointed. She had hoped better things from their high ideas of their own situation in life, and was reduced to form a wish which she had never foreseen – a wish that they had more pride; for ‘our cousins Lady Dalrymple and Miss Carteret;’ ‘ our cousins, the Dalrymples,’ sounded in her ears all day long.” – p 146

“There was no delay, no waste of time. She was deep in the happiness of such misery, or the misery of such happiness, instantly.” – p 227

Anything else?
This has now become my favorite Austen novel.

Personal thoughts:
I enjoyed this book – it was yet another of those odd reads similar to “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” where I would long for the end of the chapter, feeling completely overwhelmed by the long dialogues and winding descriptions. But once I got there, I’d be startled to find myself continuing to read out of sheer curiosity. This is a masterpiece of a story, even for Austen. You know it will end happily – simply because it’s an Austen novel – but for once, there isn’t a clear cut man you just know the heroine will end up with. Anne Elliot is torn between two men – an old love and a new handsome, charming, and interesting suitor. The variety of characters in this novel also brilliantly display Austen’s writing abilities. We meet everyone from the aging Baron Elliot who thinks himself God’s most handsome man to the hypochondriac Mary to the adorable and vivacious Mrs. Croft. The tension is perfectly balanced between events relating to love and events relating to…well…everything else. (This IS an Austen novel.) And Austen even manages to include quips about the predominance of male authors contributing to the poor image of women in society and history. How very Austen.

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