Such a letter was not to be soon recovered from. Half an hour’s solitude and reflection might have tranquillized her; but the ten minutes only, which now passed before she was interrupted, with all the restraints of her situation, could do nothing towards tranquillity. Every moment rather brought fresh agitation. It was an overpowering happiness.
(from The Annotated Persuasion, page 454)
Quick summary: I’m not going to rehash the plot of Persuasion, since this is my second time reading this novel, but you can click here if you’d like to read my thoughts after reading it for the first time. I’m going to focus more on the annotations by David M. Shapard. The Annotated Persuasion may seem long at just over 500 pages, but the actual novel is only half of the book. Jane Austen’s words are on the left page, and Shapard’s annotations are conveniently placed on the right.
Why I wanted to read it: I sort of read all of Jane Austen’s novels blind the first time around, with only the minimal footnotes provided at the back of the various editions I own. When I learned about Shapard’s annotated editions, chock full of information about the era during which Austen’s novels were written, I just had to add them to my Austen collection.
What I liked: Everything! Shapard’s annotations cover everything from definitions of words that may be unfamiliar to modern readers to why Austen spelled words a certain way, from tidbits about the culture and society of the time to analyses of various passages, from illustrations of various buildings in Bath, clothing, and forms of transportation to maps that show where the characters lived and traveled. These annotations made my second reading of Persuasion a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I finished the novel for the second time with a richer understanding of the characters and the time period and a better appreciation for Austen’s genius. And best of all, putting the text of the novel and the annotations side by side eliminates the annoyance of having to constantly flip to the back of the book to read the footnotes.
What I disliked: Honestly, I found nothing to dislike about The Annotated Persuasion, which was not surprising to me because I already knew I loved the novel. However, I think the extensive annotations may be both a help and a hindrance to readers taking on Persuasion for the first time. With numerous annotations per page, it might be distracting to read a bit of the novel, shift to the annotations, read more of the novel, and then shift back to the annotations. I never felt lost because I always knew where I was in the story and what would happen next, but I could see how easy it would be to get lost if you were reading it for the first time.
Final thoughts: The Annotated Persuasion is the perfect book for Austen fans or readers who simply want to delve deeper into the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth. Shapard covers so many topics that it’s impossible to list them all, but it’s obvious he has done his homework in order to provide a comprehensive analysis of the novel. Most of all, I loved revisiting one of my favorite novels, and I loved it ever more the second time around. I can’t wait to read the other annotated editions by Shapard that are currently in my collection: The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, The Annotated Emma, and The Annotated Sense and Sensibility. The Annotated Northanger Abbey is on my wish list, and you can bet I’ll be adding The Annotated Mansfield Park to my collection when it is released next year.
Disclosure: The Annotated Persuasion is from my personal library.
© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.