Persuasion: A Latter Day Tale
My favorite Jane Austen novel isn’t Pride and Prejudice, but Persuasion. Recently there’s been a trend in writing modern-day retellings of Austen’s works, so when I saw one featuring Persuasion, I had to read it even though I realized that the setting included Mormons in today’s Northern Virginia. I went into the book thinking I would have to defend Austen from desecration, and left pleased with what Jamison did with the story.
Anne in this modern version is a stockbroker who as a teenager joined the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, much to her mother’s dismay. As the book opens, her family home is being sold because her divorced father and unmarried sister have frittered away the family fortune.
Eight years earlier, when Anne was in college, she was engaged to Neil Wentworth who wanted to be a cop, a career choice Anne didn’t agree with, so she broke it off with him. Now he’s a police captain, and his brother is buying Anne’s house.
When they first meet, Neil is a little rude to her, saying she’s so changed he might not have known her. Like in the Austen book, the captain is paired with the sister-in-law of Anne’s sister Mary. And like in the original, Anne is the helping hand who takes care of Mary’s two boys, helps her father move, and is generally at everyone’s beck and call.
However here, since she has a job, Anne is more independent and has a fuller life, including Ben and Jerry’s pick-me-up ice cream binges and good friends to discuss her pathetic love life. At the beach with the Musgroves, she runs into handsome, charismatic Will and soon afterward starts dating him. He’s charming and seems eager to help her father get a job by using some of his contacts.
As in Austen’s story, while Lily Musgrove and Neil as well as Will and Anne appear to be getting closer, what’s really happening, at first through accidental meetings and random get-togethers, is that Neil and Anne are slowly healing their rift.
The Mormon religion plays a large part in this book, so large in fact that there’s a glossary at the end which gives definitions of terms like blessing, home teacher, relief society, and stake center among others which is very helpful for non-Mormons. Actually, the religion helps keep the story from miring in a sexual escapade which some of the Austen adaptations have done previously.
With charming Anne, hunky hero Neil, and the other updated members of Austen’s novel, Jamison’s Persuasion is delightful and happily true to Austen’s vision.