The only thing I hadn’t tried before was combining the non-fiction with the fiction – reading about the times, the places, the language, the history as they influenced JA in writing a particular story.
Which is why I have decided to make the next couple of years my Annotated Austen Extravaganza!
I’ve never read any annotated version of anything before, so I approached this first attempt a little cautiously. In case annotation was something that I didn’t like, I decided to start with a well-known, much-loved story. A story that wouldn’t be spoilt for me by any adverse conditions or reactions to a different format.
Just like Captain Wentworth, I was half agony, half hope!
Would all this extra information distract from the reading experience or would it enhance my enjoyment of the story as well as make me admire JA’s abilities to craft a story even more?
To cut a long story short, yes.
Yes, I enjoyed reading the annotated version of Persuasion, but I did have some reservations.
But I loved the extra background detail about JA’s reading habits, her literary influences and her relationship with Stoicism. I enjoyed having connections made between events in her own life and events within the book. I poured over the old pictures and drawings of dresses, carriages and maps of the local area.
We all know that Persuasion is not without it’s flaws – Shapard discusses these thoughtfully, as one who also loves this work and it’s author as much as we do. His aim is not to tear it down or judge harshly, but to wonder what may have been if JA had had more time to edit and revise Persuasion.
Reading The Annotated Persuasion was a bit like a first date. Awkward at times, but with a lot of good will, intentions and hope. As we relaxed into each other’s company, annotated edition and I got to know each other better, and it feels like the start of a promising new relationship.