I am about to attempt the impossible – I’m going to review two very different books by two VERY different authors in two very different time periods. That’s not the hard part. The hard part will be showing a correlation between the two. Mission: Accepted.
Most people are probably familiar with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. Even if they’ve never read the books, they (at least the girls) are aware of the scene where Mr. Darcy (aka Colin Firth) takes a dip in the pond (I haven’t read P&P in a while, but I’m pretty darn sure that Jane didn’t write that).
Slightly less-well-known is Jane’s last completed work, Persuasion. This is the story of Anne Elliot, a sensible young woman who was “persuaded” to let the love of her youth go, only to meet him again eight years later. Then she gets to watch as all the young girls flirt with him and all their married acquaintances guess which of the young girls he’s going to end up marrying.
This book, as many that were written in times past, may be a bit difficult to get started; the language and style are very different than what we’re used to today. And it doesn’t help that the first few pages seem dry. But the opening is actually an introduction to Jane’s snarkiness. Poor Anne isn’t just past her prime without the love of her life, she also has to deal with her ridiculous and vain father, a conceited older sister (both of whom think Anne isn’t worth their time or concern), and a hypochondriac younger sister. Jane brilliantly and scathingly writes these characters; they’re deliciously awful.
Snarkiness aside, this story (for me) can be summed up by a few lines toward the end of the story:
I believe you [men] equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long as—if I may be allowed the expression, so long as you have an object. I mean, while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.
In other words, Anne never stopped loving her Captain.
You do have to work more for this book than most fluffy romance novels, but it’s worth the effort. The only problem I had with it, and it’s a minor one, is Jane’s habit of naming multiple characters by the same first name. This may be true to the times, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out which Charles she’s referring to in a given scene.
Next up, a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Boy fears he will eat girl, so boy dumps girl. Girl mourns loss of boy. Girl befriends werewolf. Girl has to rescue boy (who happens to be a vampire). And they lived happily ever after (at least for a few weeks).
Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon, the second book in the Twilight Saga (if it's a "saga," you know it's gonna be angsty) and recent blockbuster hit. The first book in this series has our two main characters, Edward and Bella, meeting and falling in love. In New Moon, Edward is afraid that he or his family will be overcome by Bella’s tasty scent and, alas, kill her. So, for her sake, he leaves (thus making this the least favorite book in the series for thousands of teens). Bella, deep in depression, finds that extreme activities and her good buddy Jacob are the only things that make her feel a little better. And then she finds out that Jacob turns into a giant wolf and is the archenemy of all vampires. Mayhem ensues.
So how in the world can I possibly compare Jane Austen’s sensible heroine and her sea captain with a high school girl and her vampire and werewolf? Why would a grown woman choose to read this Young Adult novel? I have a theory (This is my personal opinion. If you are an adult and you love these books, but not for my reasoning below then I’m sorry, but this is my blog; if you disagree, go write about it on your blog!):
What draws me to Meyer’s books is the all-encompassing angst. Sometimes, maybe when the weather is gloomy or you’ve had a bad day or week, you just want to read something where you can have a good mope. And there is no better book from this series than New Moon for excellent mope-age: the whole world revolves around you and getting dumped means the end of everything. Poor Bella is practically comatose for the first half of the book, all because the love of her (short) life is gone.
Confession: I do love these books. There’s just something about them, despite the stalkery aspects of our hero and all the drama, that draws me in. And I think it may have something to do with what I described above. An adult woman, with all of her job, family, school, and/or general life issues, doesn’t get to wallow in much of anything, and reading about a story so me-focused can give a thrill. It’s that young love that’s all fire and excitement. The rest of us, like Anne Elliot, have to pull on our big-girl panties and get on with things, but a vicarious mope can set you free.
Bella, like Anne, lost her love. They both have their happily ever afters, and in between, they have their angst. In Jane Austen’s world, so much can be said by a single look or gesture. In Stephenie Meyer’s world, the pain and joy is more visceral. But in both you can find a good love story. (Good being entirely subjective, of course.)
So if you’re looking for a good angsty book, I’d recommend both Persuasion and New Moon. Which one just depends on the kind of angst you’re in the mood for.
Paperback: 150 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (November 18, 2008)
Title: New Moon
Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 608 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; First Paperback Edition edition (May 31, 2008)