Thursday, March 06, 2008

Mini Reviews - Persuasion and The Last Single Woman in America

Persuasion and The Last Single Woman in America could not possibly be a more contrasting pair -- one about chaste, enduring love and another about what it means for one woman to be a single woman in America (moral ambiguity figures largely into the latter, in my opinion).

Persuasion by Jane Austen - Anne Elliott was engaged to and very much in love with the dashing but impoverished Frederick Wentworth. But, thanks to the persuasion of her most trusted mother-substitute friend, Lady Russell, she broke the engagement off, only to end up pining for Wentworth and slowly losing her youthful glow. Now, years later, the Elliott household is in upheaval after her father's careless handling of funds has forced the family to rent the estate and move to a humbler home in Bath.

The wife of the admiral who is renting the Elliott estate turns out to be none other than the sister of Frederick, now Captain Wentworth, who is home from the navy and independently wealthy. Age has brought self-awareness and a firm resolve to our heroine. Anne knows that, given a second chance with Wentworth, she would grab it with all her might. But, when they cross paths, there is pain and anger in Captain Wentworth's eyes. Thrown together and then pulled apart by numerous events, it seems unlikely that they'll ever resolve their differences. And, then, Anne has an interesting conversation with a mutual friend . . .

It took me quite a while to get into this particular Austen, but I eventually figured out the problem had to do with the edition, not the author. Commas and quote marks were thrown around willy-nilly, words misspelled, text tangled; and, the result was a difficult reading experience. But, once it became clear that the trouble was with the editing and not the story, I mentally reworded or figured out the correct structure and began to read apace.

As always with Austen, it was readily apparent how the book would end; and, yet, Jane did an excellent job of setting up road blocks and tormenting her heroine. Oh, the passion! I love Austen. While not my favorite from the Austen canon, Persuasion was an enjoyable diversion and well worth the time. I hate to admit it, but there was a point at which I was brought to tears. The Borders Classics version is a mess, though, unless my earlier crack about the book being published posthumously and the editor dying along with her is correct.

Thumbs up, of course.

The Last Single Girl in America by Cindy Guidry is the opposite of Austen. A set of essays covering an indefinite number of years of the author's life (thirty-something to forty-something), the writings are humorous but -- as is often true of humorous writing -- her tone quickly becomes predictable and annoying. The vast majority are, in my opinion, just flat offensive. I should probably have known, given the title, that I was going to end up reading about the sex life of yet another confused woman from the generation of have-it-alls. Do people really think we want to know about their sex lives? Yuck. Yuck, yuck, yuck. The vast majority of the essays in this book revolted me, to the point that I considered ditching it. And, to think, she let her mother read it.

What kept me from quitting? Every now and then, along came one of those rare gems that was both funny and wise. "Rare" being the operative word. Plus, I won the book in a drawing at Dewey's website and I felt obligated to read and review, as that was the commitment: sign up to try to win a book, agree to review. Fine. Done. But, it wasn't pleasant. Guidry is a New Orleans transplant, living in Los Angeles. The setting figures heavily into the essays and her life. It's a crazy place and she tries to be sane, but I think she's got her morals mixed up with her feminism and the end result is that she keeps falling in love, but then she's not really sure what exactly love is. And, she really, truly does not get that old saw, "Why buy the milk when you can have the cow for free?" Not at all.

Thumbs down. Not recommended and definitely not family friendly. The author's blurb describes her as a woman with "razor-sharp wit" and I should add that her sense of humor is biting -- very negative, in my opinion.

Totally different topic: I love, love, love this quote by Alaska's governor, Sarah Palin, who has just announced (to the surprise of everyone, including journalists who watch her closely) that she is seven months pregnant with her fifth child:

"To any critics who say a woman can't think and work and carry a baby at the same time, I'd just like to escort that Neanderthal back to the cave," Palin said.

This quote was cut and pasted from Star Captain's Daughter.

Next up: My version of the Six Word Memoir.

14 comments:

  1. I'm glad Persuasion picked up for you. Ah, the letter... sigh.

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  2. I keep forgetting to do my six word memoir! I've been tagged like three times for that one.

    I have Persuasion sitting on my bookshelf right now. I'm going to try to get to it this year. I signed up to read it for a challenge...that and Northanger Abbey. I've never read Austen before so I'm looking forward to trying her out, but not entirely convinced that she'll be my cup of tea. Though I do love the BBC productions of her books. Who knows, we'll see!

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  3. Nat,

    I know . . . the letter. Had to reach for tissues. That's what made the book wonderful.

    Chris,

    I wrote down a whole bunch of six-word titles, one night, but most of them were nothing to do with me. I just couldn't shut my brain up, once I got started.

    Persuasion's great, but it does take a little more to get into than most of the Austens I've read. I think Pride and Prejudice is her masterpiece, personally. If you like the BBC productions, you'll probably enjoy the books. We'll see, though, eh?

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  4. When you (and any others) do your six word memoir, would you consider dropping by here

    http://weekendwordsmith.blogspot.com/2008/02/six-word-memoir.html

    and sharing it with others who have done the same? Thanks. I'm looking forward to reading yours ... and yours, too, Chris.

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  5. I still have to read Persuasion. The Last Single Woman? Not so much. The problem with making sex no big deal is that it tends to make love as no big deal either.

    Your bird break was so cute!

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  6. Bah, the sex lives of singles is so tiresome. Since Sex & the City everyone wants to share. Come on, people! Be original already!

    And, of course (story of my life), I have persuasion on TBR. For years. YEARS. I should really read more Austen, but I'm still so in love with P&P, I just haven't felt the need!

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  7. Bonnie,

    Done!

    Carrie,

    Exactly. The author is one confused chick. She did one entire essay on her then-boyfriend and the meaning of love. It was baffling. She has a total misunderstanding of love, sex and whither the twain shall meet.

    And, thank you. That bird business was such fun to watch!

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  8. Andi,

    Ah, Sex & the City. That hadn't occurred to me. Honestly, some things are just better left private, IMHO.

    I don't think Persuasion is as brilliant and wonderful as P & P, but it's very good. Especially, as Nat mentioned, The Letter. Read it just to get to The Letter, near the end and see if you don't sob into your skirts.

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  9. I've seen Persuasion popping up on a number of different blogs lately. It's the only one I don't own so I'll have to look for it (apparently not at Borders). And sex--ick! Ick ick ick. :)

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  10. Trish,

    I think PBS has influenced quite a few people to read more Austen. Borders has other versions -- just avoid their "classics" version, with the extremely anemic-looking painting on the cover. :)

    I know. Ick. I'm getting better at skimming, but man . . . there is way too much graphic sex in books.

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  11. That letter from Wentworth to Anne just puts me over the edge. So romantic!

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  12. Tara,

    I know; it had me reaching for the tissues!

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  13. You know, my first thought for The Last Single Woman in America cover was that all the other matches should be burnt save one pink one. But I think visually it looks prettier this way though.

    Now Persuasion I have yet to be persuaded to read. I think I have a copy somewhere.

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  14. Indigo,

    Believe it or not, the back cover is exactly as you described -- the opposite effect with the matches, with just one unburnt. Funny!

    I like that sentence about Persuasion. LOL Tell me what you think, when you get to it!

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