A Modern Day Persuasion by Kaitlin Saunders

While Saunders’ tale does compel a reader through the end of this version, it is so heavily flawed in both language and style that it would require a major overhaul to earn a recommendation from this reviewer.

There were so many errors in basic language that, after not very many pages, I searched for the editor’s name and then the publisher’s. I found neither. Saunders may be able to craft a modern story based on Austen’s classic, but she has not successfully edited her own work and desperately needs an editor more skilled with the English language than anyone who looked at this text before she published it. Some instances of the errors, so you understand the range:

Apostrophe usage: “Photo’s of the Elliot family” (6), “Look after the ‘little Miss Elliot’s'” (11), Mary didn’t favor “any of the Elliot’s” (35), “Old servant’s quarters” but it’s no specific servant (32). I stopped with the corrections because this wasn’t productive, just frustrating; usually, when I correct a text, I get paid or at least get the satisfaction of knowing the final version will be better for all my work. That this was the final version, and that no one bothered to fix these elementary-level mistakes, offended me.

Assorted errors: Rick says he “could care less about their disgusting money”—1) money is not disgusting, and 2) that means he does care (5); “without a substantial reason other then” (15, my emphasis); no one could ever “compliment” Walter’s looks (16); “by taking the back roads, it increased” (35); “all of the sudden” (36, my emphasis); “that made Anne suspect the couple had previously heard her name before” (104, my emphasis); Lady Russell (Carol) says to Anne: “I’ve tried to council you” (154).

In addition to the errors, there is a heavy-handedness to the writing that reduces the pleasure we might otherwise take from Saunders’ inventions. When Anne first meets the hero, she has tripped, and is rescued, but “she took one look into his concerned face and knew he had captured her heart” (3). Then the narrator tells us “their friendship went way back” right after saying they attended the same university (15). There is so much unnecessary repetition, as though Saunders thought of several ways to say something and didn’t edit any out! Our Anne would not use a cliché when sensitivity is in order, but here, Anne’s response to Ben’s tears is that “time heals all wounds” (107). Will’s eyes “riveted” Anne’s “attention as if being pulled by a tractor beam” (159-60). Good attempt at using figurative language, but this simile just feels awkward. Overall, in fact, this novel reads like it’s the novelist’s first-time, with awkward descriptions (ex: “It was a little hole in the wall, but the coffee was exceptional . . . Soft piano tunes played in the background, lending a relaxing aura” 13), unclear statements (ex: what exactly are “European features”? 16) and, sometimes, too much information (ex: way too much set-up for the letter—tells us what’s at stake; just let us read it and figure out its significance on our own!).

There are also several actions and comments that defy logic. In 2001, why would the Lady Russell (here, Carol) character shudder at the thought of Anne having to “work outside the home” (4)? Why does Rick make Anne choose between college and him? And why is finishing college the caveat Sir Walter places on his daughter’s relationship with an older man? Seems like good parenting to me! Later, why does Anne fall in the hospital? (not an exact parallel to when Anne falls and Frederick helps her in the original, but I think I see the goal here, which helped me forgive the awkwardness in its execution) How do the coffees not get lost if she falls on her “bottom” while holding them? (131) Other plot oddities: The gaudy place of escape (Bath) is California . . . which is not at all logical. Why would people retrench in someplace so expensive? Near the resolution, Will plants “a big juicy kiss on Anne’s” CHEEK (243). That’s how he offends her? A little tame, even for Austen’s era. Elizabeth is upset when Anne’s engagement is announced because she “thought she’d be the first to get married,” but Mary has long been married (245).

Saunders also manages to attempt an appropriation of Austen’s text for her own religious purposes—but with no warning of her real purpose, which might have made it more palatable. At first, it seems like maybe just more overt prayer here than in Austen; when Louisa hits her head, all Anne “could do was stand there helplessly, and pray to her Heavenly Father for a miracle” (123). But a serious religious agenda presents itself shortly thereafter, and again, it’s done with such a heavy hand that it becomes annoying at best and offensive at worst. At one point, rather than cry, which Anne thinks is useless, she decides “the better option would be to find solace in her Heavenly Father” (128). Austen’s characters were deeply religious, but Austen, though she mentions church, never uses the specificity Saunders does, when, for instance, she has Carol light the unity candle at Anne’s wedding (249). If Saunders’ goal was to reflect Austen’s style, her forcing of her own religious expressions down the readers’ throats is yet another piece of evidence of her failure.

Now, if for some reason, you can wade through all its flaws, the story does have a few nice details: Wentworth puts Anne on a little boat, rather than a carriage;
Charles Hayter (here, Chuck) actually proposes and is accepted, so the question of which sister is cleared up more quickly; when Anne first sees Mr. Elliot, she hides behind her menu and tries to cool off her burning cheeks with her cold hands; the singers Anne invites Frederick to hear become a Fourth of July fireworks show here, which works well; and at least I learned who Corinne Bailey Rae is (141). Saunders has potential as a story-teller; I’m hopeful for her and for us that the next book showcases it more effectively.

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Published in: on January 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

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