November Life Round-up

I usually struggle in November because it comes with some difficult anniversaries. This year, I decided to just try and enjoy it for what it is.

I did pretty well socially. Work sent me to North Wales, which gave me the opportunity to visit some friends on the way back. We took our nephew to the museum for an afternoon and he had a great time. We also went to a party at the end of the month at the house of people we hardly know, so that was definitely an achievement for us.

Reading 

I only finished two books in November and they were both re-reads, Persuasion by Jane Austen and Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie. I was motivated to read these after watching adaptations, Persuasion just because it’s wonderful and, along with Sense and Sensibility, is the Austen I like to read in the winter. I re-read Sleeping Murder with a view to actually writing a post about it, which I haven’t got around to doing yet.

Television 

I watched Anne of Green Gables (1985) and The Sequel (1987) for the first time and really enjoyed them. Anne of Green Gables isn’t really a “thing” in the UK, so I didn’t know much about it, but it was very important to my American partner.

I’m working my way through the Netflix re-imagining of The Haunting of Hill House. I think it’s brilliant, but it is f***ing with my head!

My chill-out watch has mostly been Chef’s Table, which has become more interesting now that the chefs have a bit more diversity. My favourite so far is the episode with Christina Martinez, an undocumented migrant who runs a traditional Mexican barbacoa restaurant in Philadelphia. It made me cry.  I really liked the one with Ana Ros, a self-taught Slovenian chef, too.

Film

We only watched one film and that was the 1995 adaptation of Persuasion. I didn’t really like this adaptation when I first saw it, but it’s grown on me over the years and is now one of my favourites. It has a different feel to other adaptations – slower and more realistic. The only thing I don’t like is the ending which has Anne and Wentworth kissing in the street as a circus goes past (why?) and then sees Wentworth demanding Anne’s hand in marriage in front of a room full of people (erm, no!).

Soundtrack to the Month 

Mostly Kristin Hersh!

Jane Austen, Persuasion (1817)

I’ve been sick all week and when I’m sick I usually turn to Jane Austen.  Last year’s seasonal flu was accompanied by Sense and Sensibility; this year I decided to re-read Persuasion.  Persuasion was Austen’s last complete novel written during 1815 and 16 as her health failed.

The heroine, Anne Elliot, is 27 and the daughter of a Baronet. Eight years previously she was persuaded by her friend, Lady Russell, to give up her engagement to a penniless young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth.  Since then, Anne, neglected and put-upon by her snobbish family, has been stricken by regret, losing her bloom and peace of mind.  Then Wentworth returns to the area, now a wealthy, successful man in search of a wife, and with no intention of forgiving the girl who jilted him.

I think Persuasion, like Sense and Sensibility, is one of the Austen novels that you appreciate more as you get older.  Reading it again, what struck me most strongly was the text’s insistence on the importance of female sexual fulfilment.  This is a book that fairly pulsates with sexual desire.  Austen gets about as close to saying that Anne and Wentworth are hot for each other as an early nineteenth-century woman writer could.  It’s all about the blushes and the averted glances.  It’s in the repeated references to the “warmth” of their earlier attachment and, perhaps most tellingly, in Anne’s constant painful/pleasurable physical awareness of Wentworth’s presence or absence.  Anne’s renewal, the return of her good spirits and good looks (Austen seems to equate the two things) is dependent on the reawakening of sexual desire and the possibility of its fulfilment.   Austen makes it clear that Anne could marry someone else, and two other possibilities present themselves, but she insists on her heroine’s right to hold out for the man she really desires, the one with whom she has an emotional, intellectual and sexual connection.  This theme is present in her other works, especially Pride and Prejudice, but as I get older, I think I find Persuasion the sexier of the two.

Since Austen, the question of female sexual fulfilment has continued to be a theme in women’s writing, from Charlotte Bronte, to Kate Chopin, and onwards; and it’s still not uncontroversial today.