*Prepare yourself for a very long and possibly slightly spoilery double feature review!*
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Publication date: 1817
Pages: 158 (in one edition)
Source: Free e-book from Austen.com
For: Classic Double Challenge
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Publication date: June 2012
For: Classic Double Challenge
Anne Elliot has had eight years to regret and wonder about the man she was persuaded not to marry, Frederick Wentworth, because he did not have good enough prospects. Now, returned with a fortune and a long memory, the two are thrown together again. Anne must watch painfully as he courts another woman. Will she once again allow herself to be persuaded against her feelings?
For Darkness Shows the Stars (FDSS):
Elliot North gave up her best friend four years ago when he left and she stayed behind with her insufferable family to help save the estate. The world may have suffered terrible population decimation and still feels the effects of those scientists who thought to improve humanity, but instead ended up destroying it, but Elliot still feels her own personal suffering. When Kai returns with a new name and a new life, she isn't sure what to feel or do. Even when it is clear he hasn't forgiven her, she can't seem to get him out of her heart.
Anne and Elliot obviously have some things in common - the two ladies gave up someone they loved because of what they felt was duty. They have the same sensible notions about class and aren't bothered (as much) by the family pride. I think they are also very different, though, with Anne being a lot more mild and quiet and accepting of her fate than Elliot. Elliot is not wasting away, though that might be because in her situation she has opportunities to be active whereas Anne is very limited by time and circumstance to sitting at home with not much to do. Elliot is tough and daring, though in quieter ways than those around her. She does stand up to her father in small ways, while Anne will usually try to placate her father and soothe him to achieve her ends. Elliot is obviously younger and more impulsive than the more mature, calm Anne. I think Kai and Wentworth are more similar than Anne and Elliot. Both come back angry and hurt and trying, at least unconsciously, to forget the girl they left behind. Both are cold and unfeeling, though also kind in quiet ways.
What I love most about P is the hope of second chances. This idea is not lost in FDSS, but it is not the main part of the story. I think Peterfreund did a fabulous job of taking that original story and expanding it in new ways. FDSS is a story of second chances for Elliot and Kai, but it is also a story of class distinctions and ethics in scientific experimentation. I just loved seeing little things that inspired Peterfreund to add to her story - those iconic moments in P brought to life again: the accident, the letter, etc. The bare bones of that beloved story transfer to this new one with its own twists and changes very well.
One of the things Jane Austen does so well is to show those brief moments that show a character's feelings. Words, expressions, little movements even, all contribute to building a foundation for the love story. She had a true gift for making us care about her couples and what happens to them. I found the romance between Elliot and Kai was less well drawn, lacked that foundation. I think perhaps because so many other things were going on in that story, I didn't quite believe in them. There was not enough, not even with all their letters, to convince me they cared about each other then or really now.
In both stories, location and time are integral parts of the story. And despite being so obviously different (1800s in England vs. far future on an island likely in the South Pacific), there were some things that looked similar. Obviously, the social structure - the nobility of England and the Luddites of Elliot's time - they both had upper and lower classes. Elliot has some unusual restrictions in the things she can do, like experiment with genetics. Both settings play a huge part of some of the minor actions and in how things progress. Obviously much of Anne's behavior is because of the customs and manners of England at the time. The same is true of Elliot's behavior in her time and place, but even more so. Jane Austen was writing about how things were in her own time time, so it didn't seem so different or restrictive to her, but Peterfreund is writing of a future time and place with very specific limitations and other cultural practices in place. The setting is much more deliberate and therefore more important to the story, I think.
Things I Liked about P:
Persuasion did not disappoint on this reread. Despite being reminded of all the many side characters and side stories that Austen was prone to, the story at the heart of the book remains a favorite of mine. Anne Elliot, despite being a somewhat meek and colorless lady, is more than her original appearance belays. She is truly a good person, reminding us that while many in the nobility of England were vain and slaves to rank, she was a person who found delight in knowing people of all stations. I suppose I love the story because I always thought of myself as relating most to Anne than any other Austen heroine (no matter how much I'd like to be a Lizzy). A beautiful story that reminds us of all that is constant and good in human nature and that second chances should happen more often. I can even be reconciled the Captain Wentworth, who was not very nice to her initially and to Lady Russell who was kind of an idiot. There certainly are a lot of foolish people in Anne's life - something Austen had a real talent for portraying.
Things I Didn't Like about P:
Ok, sometimes I got frustrated with how mild Anne was. I often wondered at her being so tolerant of the obnoxious and often unfeeling things people said to her; she always remained calm. Perhaps it isn't that I'm frustrated at her, but that I wish I could be like her in this. Yes, she isn't the most exciting or tough or independent person, but she is so darn good that you can't help but wish you were a little better. I can't find much to complain about in this story - I just love it.
Things I Liked about FDSS:
Sigh. I love Persuasion and I love dystopian literature, so a mix of these delights was simply perfect. I think Peterfruend has done a really excellent job of keeping the original beautiful story of second chances and making it something completely different - a look at class and ethics and a broken future world. Seriously, this book was good, even for those who don't like (or haven't touched) Jane Austen. I loved the little Persuasion details that I caught glimpses of here and there (the letter! oh, the letter.) I think I loved even more the complicated feelings and difficulties involved in scientific experimentation and both the risks and rewards. Yeah for science! It was a pretty balanced view of both types of consequences too and gave this reader a lot of food for thought.
Things I Didn't Like about FDSS:
As mentioned above, I was not entirely sold on the relationship between Kai and Elliot. That development kind of took a back seat to the larger picture and story. While Elliot was a clear and conflicted person, I never felt like I got a grasp on Kai. Despite this drawback, I did truly enjoy the story and loved seeing bits of my favorite Austen classic putting on new clothes.
Ok, I can't help posting a few of my favorite quotes from P. I thought I'd marked some from FDSS too, but I guess I lost them when I returned the book to the library. Darn, guess I'll have to buy it :)
"She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning." Ch.4
"Alas! with all her reasoning, she found, that to retentive feelings eight years may be little more than nothing." Ch.7
"There could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement." Ch.8
"When pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure. One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering." Ch. 20Read-alikes:
Other Jane Austen books
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
BOOK CONTENT RATINGS for P:
Overall rating: *****
BOOK CONTENT RATINGS for FDSS:
maybe a few
Overall rating: *****
Any thoughts on these two? (And bravo if you read that whole review!)
(For more dystopian awesome, check out Presenting Lenore's Dystopian August celebration!)
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