This was Jane Austen’s last novel and was published in December of 1817. The title was actually chosen by Austen’s brother Henry because of her untimely death. Persuasion is closely linked to Northanger Abbey in two ways: they were originally published together in one volume and are both partly set in Bath. While the novel is shorter and slightly less polished than Austen’s other works, it is still a wonderful narrative. The story amplifies Austen’s biting wit and rather ironic storytelling style. Also, the book was rather original for its time. It is the only one of Austen’s novels to feature a heroine who is considered a spinster and generally unappreciated. And it also praises the self-made man and reflects a changing time in British Society. Landed gentry were struggling to accommodate the growing ranks of the nouveau rich. All the tension in the narrative revolves around one question: Will Anne and Captain Wentworth be successfully reunited? Anne is an extremely likeable heroine; she is intelligent, considerate, practical, and sensible. Persuasion is markedly different from Austen’s other books due to its biting slightly irritable satire about the state of society. As with all Austen novels, Persuasion has been adapted for the screen multiples times. My favorite is the 2007 version. Hello Captain Wentworth.
Persuasion, Oxford University Press, 2004, 9780192802637
Originally published on October 16, 1847 and the first American edition was released the following year. 1847 was an eventful one for the Brontë family. The sisters published three novels under pen names: Wuthering Heights by Ellis Bell; Agnes Grey by Acton Bell; and Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, edited by Currier Bell. Bronte used her personal experiences as a teacher and governess to address several societal ambiguities common in the 1800s. Jane Eyre is one the greatest novels in the English language. This is not a pure romance novel, the romantic element is actually a subplot. It is a classic gothic novel that combines together a coming of age tale, the roman à clef, classism, sexuality, religion, and independence. Of course the most memorable part of the novel is the progression of the relationship between Jane and Rochester. Jane is one of the strongest female heroines in literature. She has fortitude, intelligence, and independence. From the opening line, Brontë pulls the reader into a complex and intense narrative. What I admire about this book is that the story can be re-read numerous times and never seem boring. The exploration of societal expectations placed on women and men is excellent. Both the writing and the characterizations are fantastic.
Jane Eyre, Penguin Classics, 2003, 9780142437209
Jojo Moyes is the author of seven previous novels and was employed for several years as a journalist I the United Kingdom. Me Before You was her previous novel and was an enormous bestseller in the United States and in Britain. Moyes manages to recapture the magic in The Girl You Left Behind. This novel follows the tales of two women separated by several generations and the painting that connects their stories. This is not really a “love” story, instead it is a historical novel with romantic elements. The book opens in 1916 in the small French Town of Peronne during its German occupation. This narrative follows Sophie has she tries to survive after her husband left to join the army. Nearly a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her husband shortly before his untimely death. Live suddenly feels the need to discover the history behind the haunting picture. Since this is a split narrative, the constant switching between the two stories is a little disconcerting. The transition can be a little rough. However, the story moves quickly and the dramatic tension is excellently handled. Moyes expertly illustrates the complexities behind restitution and the personal stories behind the artwork.
The Girl You left Behind, Pamela Dorman Books, 2013, 9780670026616
This is a poignant novel about redemption and the endurance of the human spirit. It is sent in 1923 and follows the misadventures of Delilah Drummond. She is a modern woman and does not mind a little scandal. However, she soon becomes embroiled in too much scandal and ends up trading Parisian high Society for Kenya. This is the first of Raybourn’s books that I have read and I enjoyed every moment. From the opening line, I was hooked. The narrative encompasses a wide range of emotions and does so with style. Raybourn explores both the culture of the European community in Africa and the Creoles in New Orleans. All these details overlap in an interesting manner and mesh with the lore of the Masai in Kenya. I admit that Delilah is not an easy heroine to cheer for or even like. While she starts out as a typical Parisian flapper, she matures over the course of the story. The Delilah at the end of the novel is extremely more likeable than the Delilah at the beginning. Ryder is a larger than life character. He is suave, fearless, and a perfect foil to the wild Delilah. I actually hope this book is adapted into a movie. It is lighthearted and an enjoyable read.
A Spear of Summer Grass, Harlequin MIRA, 2013, 9780778314394
This is actually the third installment in Willig’s excellent Pink Carnation Series. It is a wonderful historical fictions series about British spies and their romantic entanglements in the 19th century. The historical narrative is set against the contemporary story between Eloise Kelly and Colin Selwick. All the books in the series are too clever to be considered “chick-lit” and are not pure romantic tales. Willig’s attention to authentic historical details makes the stories intriguing and unique. Also, she excels at weaving a touching romantic tale without being overly sentimental. In The Deception of the Emerald Ring all the main characters are lively and their repartee is enjoyable. This is my favorite book out of the series. I can relate to the heroine, Letty. We both has frizzy hair and do not appreciate being given orders. She is also intelligent, spunky, and witty. The hero, Geoffrey Pinghingdale-Snipe, starts out being a tad reserved. But he eventually warms up and is more than a match for Letty. To be fair, Geoff and Letty end up together after she tries to keep him from eloping with her sister. The writing is excellent and the story is engaging. The book has everything: history, danger, spies, high society, and romance. I recommend the entire series.
The Deception of the Emerald Ring, Dutton Adult, 2006, 9780525949770