Recently, I reread what I would consider to be my second favorite Jane Austen novel: Persuasion. (Actually, it's probably tied with Emma as my second favorite, though the two are completely different.)
I think a lot of us have given thought as to which Austen character we're most like. I've always felt like a combination of Elinor Dashwood (of Sense and Sensibility) and Anne Elliot (of Persuasion). I'm a quiet introvert who usually does more listening than talking, and I feel uncomfortable being the center of attention. But the older I get, the more I feel the connection to Anne Elliot. I last read the book five years ago, so of course I can relate to Anne more at twenty-four than I did at nineteen.
Anne is basically a much better version of myself...so I want to be like her when I grow up, ha. She's a lot more patient and kind than I am. She's good, but she's not perfect (a complaint that a lot of people have with, say, Fanny Price of Mansfield Park). She has to put up with so much, and she handles everything so well. Who else could deal with her dad and sisters? Seriously...the Elliots have to be one of the most obnoxious families in Austen's novels. (Not one of the things I share with her, thankfully!) One of the main themes of the novel is Anne regretting a past mistake, but she learns from that and lets it shape her into a better person.
Also, while Elinor Dashwood is a very practical person, Anne isn't always, and I get that. She is still hopeful after all of those years, though she tries to appear practical and sensible and talk herself out of what she's feeling at times. One of my favorite things about Persuasion is how introspective it is. Because I can relate to her so much, I love getting a glimpse of how Anne is thinking and guessing and trying to sort things out.
Another thing that I love about this book is that it feels a lot more realistic than some of Jane Austen's other novels. Don't get me wrong...I love Pride and Prejudice as much as anyone. It's one of my favorite books. But how many of us are as sparkling and witty as Elizabeth Bennet? And how many of us are going to have three men interested in marrying us, one of them being incredibly wealthy? (Though come to think of it, Anne has also received proposals from three different guys. This is one aspect of novels that I don't understand. The female characters always have multiple guys in love with them...surely that's not realistic! It even happens with unstable and sometimes unlikable characters like Katniss.) Though I've never been in Anne's exact situation, the circumstances in Persuasion feel a lot more relatable.
As usual, there's a great cast of memorable supporting characters. I really like the settings, too: Bath and the seaside town of Lyme feel different than the usual country settings. There's also some typical Austen humor, though the story has more of a bittersweet feel. I don't even need to say how sweet the romance is or mention Captain Wentworth's letter. :) Overall, it's just a lovely, satisfying story.
After finishing the book, I decided to watch the two adaptations that I own again. I settled in with my knitting and had one big Persuasion marathon. :)
First I watched the 1995 film. I've only seen this adaptation once before, several years ago. Watching it immediately after finishing the book, I have to say that it is a very accurate adaptation. It follows the book closely and there are bits of dialogue that are word-for-word from the book.
It's enjoyable overall but...it's not my favorite. Right from the beginning, I was like, who is that girl lazing about, looking sloppy? Mrs. Clay? No. It's Elizabeth Elliot, supposedly a very prideful person. I do love Sophie Thompson as Mary, though. (If she looks familiar, it's because she played Miss Bates in the 1996 Emma, and she's Emma Thompson's sister.)
Then there's Anne. I'm sorry, but Amanda Root as Anne spends most of the film either looking wide-eyed and terrified, or extremely sad and depressed. It's so distracting. Ciaran Hinds is okay as Captain Wentworth, but I really can't see him as anyone other than Dumbledore's brother now, so there's that.
One interesting thing is that both adaptations feel the need to make Mr. Elliot worse. In this one, they make him poor, so he's desperate to maintain the family connection. In the newer adaptation, he's going to marry Anne and keep Mrs. Clay as a mistress. That doesn't feel necessary to me. He's enough of a selfish slimeball in the book, especially when you find out how he treated Mrs. Smith and her husband.
I can't explain it...while this film is a close adaptation, it's lacking charm and chemistry.
You can probably see where this is going, but I much prefer the 2007 adaptation. :) I like the casting a lot, not only in the supporting cast, but especially with Anne and Captain Wentworth. (Mr. Elliot is also perfectly sneaky looking.) The music is gorgeous (courtesy of Martin Phipps, who also did the music for North and South). I like the narration from Anne when she's writing in her journal, because it brings in the introspective aspect of the novel.
This one isn't perfect, though. It's quite short, so it feels rushed. There are some shaky, "modern" bits of filming and camera angles, particularly at the beginning and the end. I also didn't like how they kept having Anne look into the camera. It was usually when she was narrating, so I guess they were trying to emphasize that, but it just felt weird.
The biggest flaw with this adaptation, though, is all of the awkward running at the end. I mean, I get that they're trying to show you the urgency. I'm no runner, but even I'd probably run for Captain Wentworth in that situation. :) Still, it's almost laughable, and it feels distracting at a point in the story that is supposed to be very dramatic and swoon-worthy. If the ending were done differently, this would be nearly a perfect adaptation. It's still my favorite, though I'm hoping at some point Persuasion will earn a beautiful mini-series or something. :)