Book: “Persuasion” by Jane Austen

Cover of the book showing a painting of a young woman reading next to an elderly woman

Ah, the wit of Jane Austen is sharp in this novel, and enjoyable as always. 

It is laid out a lot like a theatrical play. Many of the scenes could be played in their own stage. Except perhaps the long walks and the beach strolls. 

This novel is her shortest, I think. However, I was stricken by the over-abundance of the word “and”.

I may return to this post with more to add. I only finished it now after starting it yesterday, and I may need to let it sink.

2022-07-27 update: “and” appears 2802 times (*) in a total of 227 pages (24 chapters). That’s 12.3 per page

(*) [After starting to underline them in my book, I found it tedious and unreliable, so I found an HTML version of the book, stripped it of non-novel cruft using emacs and then piped a word count to a grep, embracing the nerddom, but then ran a better grep(**) command which my colleague Bert Bos supplied and explained, because the simpler one would find hand, grand or wander, but not And,]

 (Wed, 27 Jul 2022 01:11:29 CET)-(koalie@gillie:~:)$grep and /Users/koalie/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com\~apple\~CloudDocs/Downloads/Persuasion\,\ by\ Jane\ Austen.html | wc -l

(**) (Wed, 27 Jul 2022 07:11:31 CET)-(koalie@gillie:~:)$grep -E -i -o '\band\b' /Users/koalie/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com\~apple\~CloudDocs/Downloads/Persuasion\,\ by\ Jane\ Austen.html | wc -l

(where -E = enable regexps, -i = case-insensitive, -o = put every occurrence on a separate line, \b = word edge) [Thanks Bert!]

Book: “Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen

Cover of the book 'Northhanger Abeey' by Jane Austen, representing the portrait of a young woman

I am so impressed that Jane Austen wrote this at 22 years old. It’s her first novel but until it was printed posthumously she had made changes to the manuscript. It’s hard to know what changed (beyond the name of the main character and the title) but it does feel like the whole book is a bit disjointed. It’s hard to say how much to attribute this to the rewriting or to the fact that it is a patchwork of themes and genres. 

It’s a satire, in the form of a parody of gothic novels,  but it’s also a feminist work except that every female is several shades of dim, it’s a love story except that the male protagonist is away most of the time *and* whose love is rather undeclared, it’s a coming of age book both about the main character and apparently for Jane Austen herself. 

Northanger Abbey goes against all common conceptions but always smoothly. All characters are fascinating. It’s very witty —so much of the book is quotable!

But there are a few things that did not work for me in the roles of the entire Tilney family and which remain unexplained despite research and after reading introductions and some reviews from scholars. To name only one, why would the father, a general —or any rich man for that matter— care so much about designing the marriage of only one of his children (and to be that of his second son), and how could he devote so much energy and time to it, remains an utter mystery.