Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Review: The Annotated Persuasion

The Annotated PersuasionThe Annotated Persuasion by Jane Austen

This is an excellent edition for the reader coming to Persuasion for the second time, especially one who wants a greater familiarity with the physical reality of the setting and some insight on a literary level into the writing.

I'm very fond of annotated versions of novels, especially novels written before the 20th century. Words change meaning and implication over time. Social mores change, styles of living change, even what it means to be rich and poor change. In the case of this, Jane Austen's last complete novel, someone who does not have a certain amount of familiarity with late 18th/early 19th century English society and culture will lose much of the nuance of the story -- the obstacles appear absurd and contrived, the situations dull, the various difficulties faced by the characters ridiculous without that knowledge. This annotated version gives all that information in a fairly unobtrusive but convenience way, by playing notes on each facing page of the text.

It includes maps of areas, references to Austen's letters as source material, interesting facts, definitions of words as used at the time, and much more detail, trivia, and observation by the editors which add to the novel without interfering with it. I enjoyed the Annotated Pride & Prejudice I read a few years ago, and I'm looking forward to starting the Annotated Sense & Sensibility by the same editors.

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