My rating: 3 of 5 stars
such a difference between this and Pride and Prejudice!
when Mark Twain got older, he got shall we say vastly less amused by human stupidity, greed, malice, and all the other deadlies. it sometimes made for some painful reading, although Twain was never less than bleakly accurate. i think this late novel of Austen’s could be said to suffer the same.
it’s an interesting emphasis on money and position that goes on in this book–the outward disdain for position, but the dwelling on it; the fastidious totting up of fortunes (no thought to how they’re gotten). Ann, the central character, is horribly embarrassed by her family’s sucking up to the blue bloods, but the novel itself parses quite minutely who lords it over whom. ditto money; who’s got how much is covered in detail, and victory goes to the one with the most toys.
Austen’s life was not long, but i wonder if she got tired of watching the antics of the gentry as they jockeyed for position along the royalty rail, uselessly shedding money and hoping to be bailed out by the patrons in the stands.
i sense a disdain in Austen for the majority of the characters in this book. the two main characters, who get a pass on that account, are on the whole rather thin, for all the ink devoted to getting them married. Ann hasn’t half the appeal of Dickens’ Esther Summerson; Captain Wentworth has none of the charm of Allan Woodcourt. many of the other characters are either repulsive or unpleasant at best.
i wonder what Austen was thinking… it was the last of her works published in her lifetime. i’d like to think she was ready to move on to wholly different subject matter–then i can rue what she might have done. it’s a pity this book is the finale to such an otherwise illustrious career.