Classic love story revisited

Have you ever read a classic novel only to discover you have no idea what they are saying? The language and words, however rich, seem to go over your head just a bit. Wouldn’t it be convenient to find a description of dated words and traditions directly next to the reading as opposed to googling every other word? David M. Shapard has created a novel, “The Annotated Persuasion,” which explains the classic Jane Austen novel, “Persuasion,” in just this manner.

Jane Austen is a famous novelist whose works deal largely with romance. Each of her novels focuses on a heroine who must overcome her own fatal flaw in order to achieve her happy ending. Austen’s comedic appeal, use of dialogue to shape characters and critical commentary of the social structure of the time has set her apart from other novelists and explain why her works are still being read and produced as films.

“Persuasion” is the shortest of Austen’s novels and like all of her works it is ultimately a love story. It differs greatly from her most famous novels, “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma,” in that some of the comic elements are not as evident and it does not really develop minor characters. Instead, “Persuasion” concentrates on the main character Anne Elliot, who is much older than Austen’s other heroines, and is quickly approaching spinsterhood.

“The Annotated Persuasion,” by Shapard, uses footnotes to educate the reader on subjects they may not be familiar with. The world that Jane Austen’s characters inhabit becomes tangible for the modern-day reader because each footnote provides an explanation for things like a word that has changed over time or is no longer used to brief descriptions of the period’s social structure.

The novel is reminiscent of the days back in middle school when every facet of a novel was laid out and explained. For a university student this is a familiar, but distant experience is much appreciated.

One suggestion to readers is to read Austen’s “Persuasion” without glancing over at the footnotes. It will be tempting, but its best to read Austen and appreciate her for her own work. For those not familiar with Austen’s work, “Persuasion,” though it is her last novel, is a wonderful introduction to her other novels .

After reading “Persuasion” with only Austen’s words add the footnotes. Through this experience you are not just receiving two novels for the price of one, but adding an entirely new dimension and layer to the appreciation of such a classic work. By providing clarifications through footnotes the modern reader is able to understand a social structure that is different from today’s society.

Sure to be a favorite of any fan of Austen’s work, “The Annotated Persuasion” provides clear explanations of otherwise dated word choices and customs. Shapard creates a smooth transition and familiarity for the modern reader all while making each word, custom, tradition and role increasingly palatable to today’s audience.

Elizabeth Molina can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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