Persuade Me by Juliet Archer

This is a book filled with beautiful moments, just like its namesake, but different moments, in a modern world.

In an intriguing melding of the various worlds Austen crafted, a modern Darcy reflects in the foreword about introducing newly scarred Georgiana to a professor still nursing scars of his own. Professor Rick Wentworth, referred to by The Sun as the “Sex-in-the-Sea Doc” in honor of his new book, travels from Australia to England for a publicity tour and must face some old ghosts that have hindered the development of his love life for the better part of the last ten years (3). Dr. Anna Elliot, lecturer in Russian Studies at Bath & Western University, is also trying to recover from the love affair of a decade ago, and does her best with dear friends Jenny and Tom, and a Russian novel by her bedside.

Following the plot of Persuasion, this version allows us into the heads and hearts of both heroine and hero, fleshes out the would-be romance between Anna and her now brother-in-law Charles, makes clever links between our characters’ lives and the plots of various Russian novels (Anna Karenina, The Idiot), and, though I hardly would have thought it possible, makes Sir Walter and his eldest daughter (here, Lisa) even more naïve, vain, and superficial than before. Anna is the only one not to fall under her evil cousin’s spell, and all details point to his actually genuinely being emotionally moved by her.

The greatest moments in Persuade Me derive, of course, from Austen’s genius, but Archer plays delightfully with several of them. Lou is incredibly forward in both texts, but in the modern world, what was once mildly inappropriate leaning on Wentworth’s arm becomes an open invitation for sex (sample: “The only nuts I’m interested in are yours, Rick Wentworth” 109). Anne’s being picked up by the passing carriage of Wentworth’s sister and her husband now becomes Rick seeing Anna stumble and deliberately calling them on his cell phone to come by and pick up Anna—an even more considerate gesture. We’re all familiar with Wentworth’s poignant line to Anne: ”you pierce my soul”; here, before the letter, Anne is described as giving Wentworth a “conscious look that pierced his soul” (302). In this important reunion, each of them wears the outfit the other so appreciated at the previous encounter; in fact, the parallel emotions and behaviors of the two characters in this rendition of Persuasion serve to reinforce the equality of the partners, and the “rightness” of the match. The narrator even sets us straight on one concern modern people might have above love stories in which the love is so completely consuming with a beautiful line of explanation: “Which wasn’t to say that she depended on another person to make life worth living; it was rather that, for her, a soul mate gave everything a clearer, brighter purpose” (264).

I also learned a few things. Cool Water is a perfume (300). “Rictus” describes a gaping grin (266). “Bloody” can be used in hyphenate form to modify “minded” (115). Leonard Cohen songs apparently offer the same brooding quality as do Romantic poems (138). Feet can be scintillatingly kissable (72). Yet another Austen heroine wears lavender? (72) (Does Anne wear it in Persuasion? And Elizabeth in P & P? I must be due for some revists.) “Enrol” may be spelled with a single “l” (73).

Perhaps you already knew all these things. Let me enlighten you, then, that no good literature instructor marks a stack of essays quite as rapidly as Anna Elliot, but as that detail was perhaps the only flaw I found with this delightful story, it’s a strong recommendation to try it yourself.

Published in: on September 3, 2011 at 8:41 pm  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Enjoyed the review, Natasha. I already read The Importance of Being Emma and loved it, so I’m sure I’ll like this one. Besides, anything involving Leonard Cohen is bound to appeal : )

    • So glad you enjoyed the review, Monica, and the first book in the series. Four more on their way :-).

  2. I am thrilled with your review, Natasha – thank you!

    I can only add that Anna Elliot has very small tutorial groups – so not many essays! 🙂

    • I’m jealous! 🙂

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