“Anne, your words… they are so blunt, so unfeeling. It is unlike you. You have changed greatly of late.”
“Yes, Lady Russell, I have changed, and my transformation is ongoing. However, it is not a recent event, but one that has been happening under everyone’s noses for nearly two years and can be dated from my twenty-fifth birthday. And because I have altered, those around me must change as well. The Anne Elliot my family and you knew is no more.”
(from Anne Elliot, A New Beginning, page 9)
Mary Lydon Simonsen’s love of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and her sense of humor are evident in her latest novel, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning. Readers will need a sense of humor as well and not mind some liberties being taken with their beloved Austen characters to enjoy this parody, which had me in stitches throughout.
Anne Elliot’s family declares her a spinster on her 25th birthday, and since she has no plans to marry anyone unless he’s Frederick Wentworth — to whom she was engaged until a family friend, Lady Russell, persuaded her to break off the relationship because he was poor and not likely to make much of himself — she feels a sense of freedom. Possibly inspired by the ending of the 2007 movie version of Persuasion, Simonsen’s Anne Elliot takes a morning walk, decides to chase a rabbit, and ultimately becomes a long-distance runner. Anne also is more outspoken, no longer willing to let people decide for her, and not in need of any one to support her. When Frederick comes back after more than eight years, now a wealthy naval captain, he admires the changes in Anne and is drawn to her once again.
“Henrietta told Mary of a remark you made concerning me, Captain Wentworth, and Mary could hardly wait to repeat it. You said that I had altered so much that you would not have known me. Well, that comment was correct because I have changed. The mouse you left eight years ago is no more. People may have their expectations, but I shall do what I think is best for me. I only have this one life, and as limited as it is by society and my own family, it is mine to live as I see fit,” and she turned and walked into the inn without looking back. (page 51)
Although Anne Elliot, A New Beginning is very much about Anne and Wentworth rekindling their romance, Simonsen’s retelling is so different from Austen’s original work that it takes on a life of its own. I loved how Simonsen deviated from Austen’s tale by making Mr. Elliot more horrid and mixing Anne and Wentworth up with a charming street urchin named Swoosh who gives them hilarious street names when they go undercover to get the scoop on Mr. Elliot. Anne isn’t the only character who undergoes a major transformation, and the changes in her sister, Mary, and a business undertaking by her sister, Elizabeth, and their father, Sir Walter, are hilarious! There’s a little bit of everything in this book, from romance and sexual innuendo to humorous anachronisms and more.
Unlike Persuasion, Anne Elliot, A New Beginning takes the characters of Anne and Frederick well beyond where Austen ends their story. It’s too bad that Pride and Prejudice gets all the attention because I really enjoyed Simonsen’s take on Persuasion — and she seriously could write another novel all about Swoosh. However, Simonsen told me she had to self-publish Anne Elliot, A New Beginning because it isn’t a different take on Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, which is what sells these days. I hope that changes in the future because the characters in Persuasion are just as captivating…and I’m still not ready to let them go just yet.
Disclosure: I received Anne Elliot, A New Beginning from the author for review.
© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.