Frederick Wentworth, Captain: None But You by Susan Kaye

This story puts us immediately with Frederick on his ship and gives us information on the present time (Harville arrives with the news about his sister Fanny) and reflections on the past (his first kiss with Anne, the attempt to get Sir Walter’s permission for them to marry, Frederick telling Anne to consult Lady Russell, which he of course later regrets, etc). The details also helped me understand that, in his current position, Wentworth is very much like Sir Walter in his world: everyone shows respect to him because of who he is, and everyone knows who he is without his saying so. No wonder Sir Walter is so irritated by Frederick: he earned what Sir Walter was born with.

Before Anne appears on the scene, the story offers a lot of ship history, a touching first night with Benwick after Frederick gets stuck telling him the news (which role is later reprised when he has to tell the Musgroves what happened to Louisa; both instances deal with girls somehow connected to Benwick, which I found interesting), an amusing (implied) comparison of what books Captain Wentworth reads versus what Sir Walter reads at the start of Persuasion, and interesting information about young Frederick’s home life, with a father who physically abused Edward (the older brother) and verbally abused the mother and Frederick’s sister, Sophie. At 12 years old, Frederick came under the guardianship of his older brother, and was basically raised by him.

When Frederick visits his charming sister and her husband, Admiral Croft, at first he assumes that Anne is married to Charles Musgrove. (Mary Musgrove is so annoying, but the rest of that family is delightful—so easygoing and genial—both here and in the original.) When Frederick meets the Musgrove sisters, he actually prefers the elder girl but is so in love with Anne that he is not seriously contemplating a life with either Musgrove daughter.  He continues to think Anne lost to him until he sees and hears the real Mrs. Musgrove, of whom everyone says awful things (so he should have known it couldn’t be Anne who married Charles).

Kaye crafts a device that haunts Frederick and reminds us how much he suffers: it is a portrait of Anne’s mother and hangs in a prominent place in the sitting room where his sister and her husband like to rest (away from all the mirrors) in Kellynch Hall. The portrait reminds him startlingly of Anne, and he spends a lot of time staring at it and avoiding it.

In general, Kaye captures these characters very well for they feel much like the ones we know.

She also adds a lot of background information and even an amusing tale of Frederick’s older brother scolding Adm. Croft for sitting alone with his future bride before their engagement.  Wentworth arranges a year’s worth of food and treats for his friend during hard times, but only the wife knows about it, so Harville won’t feel ashamed or indebted. This is all BEFORE the Harvilles are so helpful with Louisa.  In exchange, they remind Frederick what the domestic bliss he once sought looks like. Poor Frederick.  He seems surrounded by people in love—both his siblings, and also the Harvilles. At least the Charles and Mary Musgrove union gives him no cause for jealousy.

Kaye does call Wentworth’s claims about the value of being “firm” (to Louisa) “silly drivel” (174)—was Austen not intending him to be serious in these views? But this was the only moment I doubted Kaye’s accuracy to Austen’s intents, and it was fleeting indeed.

The end of Book 1—Frederick disciplines Charles for not letting Anne care for Louisa, so Anne really hears how much he values and trusts her; Anne, for just a moment, speaks Frederick’s name in a whisper to help him through a difficult moment; and finally Frederick hurries back to Charles and the injured Louisa, only to find that Anne has made sure he has some items of comfort on the carriage—left me teary. I need to order Book 2 right away. (Tip: have them both on hand when you begin Book 1.)

Published in: on July 20, 2009 at 9:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

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