Captain Wentworth’s Diary
By: Amanda Grange
Amanda Grange continues her series of much-loved Jane Austen retellings with “Captain Wentworth’s Diary”. It is 1806, and the Napoleonic wars are ravaging Europe. Frederick Wentworth, a brilliant young man with a flourishing career in the navy, is spending his shore leave in Somerset, where he meets and falls in love with Anne Elliot. The two become engaged, but Anne’s godmother persuades Anne to change her mind, leaving Wentworth to go back to sea a bitter and disappointed man. Eight years pass, and peace is declared. Wentworth is no longer a young man with his way to make in the world, but a seasoned captain with a fortune at his disposal. He is ready to marry anyone with a little beauty who pays a few compliments to the navy – or so he says – until he sees Anne. Anne’s bloom has faded, yet she has the same sensibilities and superior mind she had eight years earlier, and before he knows it, he is falling in love with her all over again. Can there be a happy outcome for them this time around, or have they lost their chance of love forever?
This book has been on my want-to-read list for forever and a half so imagine how happy I was when I finally got around to picking up the novel =P As many of you probably know, Persuasion is my favourite novel by Jane Austen so naturally a novel that’s written from one of the other character’s point of view would pique my curiosity. At the same time my experience with Jane Austen spin-offs have been a hit-and-miss at best but I nonetheless decided to go for this novel anyhow. You can’t go wrong with reading Persuasion from his eyes. Spoilers if you haven’t read Jane Austen’s Persuasion (or at least know how the story goes)!
Probably the most pleasant surprise about this novel was the fact that it doesn’t start at 1814 with the events of Persuasion but rather at 1806 when Frederick Wentworth first shows up in the area and meets Anne Elliot. It’s a fitting place to start because it really introduces Wentworth’s character and the origins of Anne and Wentworth’s relationship. Grange’s Wentworth is quite close and faithful to the character and everything I perceived Wentworth to be: confident, dashing, adventurous, perceptive, hot-tempered and deeply emotional (I wrote about this in an issue of Femnista last year). The reader sees through his eyes what he saw in Anne and how strongly he felt for her. I also thought their first encounter was pretty amusing, there’s a vibrancy but sweetness to Anne that is referred to in Persuasion but is witnessed first hand.
What’s also great about this novel is that it’s not a play-by-play repeat of the events of Persuasion. Wentworth has scenes with other characters and new characters who were not introduced in the original novel. They add to the depth of Wentworth’s character and the society that he is able to socialise in. It’s also nice because characters like Wentworth’s brother, whom readers hear of but does not meet in Persuasion, make an appearance in this novel and plays a major role on Wentworth’s part.
Some scenes from the novel are sped up or touched upon in a few sentences but others were replayed from his perspective. I appreciated this because I loved reading how he analyses Anne’s behaviour, wondering if she still felt anything for him and whether there was still a chance; it’s especially cute since Anne was also thinking the same thing. He’s obviously hurt and angry from what had happened eight years ago and it shows in the text. How he came to realise that his actions with Louisa was wrong and done out of hurt occurred a bit too quickly in the novel but the latter part leading up to the infamous letter was just great. And it was great that the author fleshed out the ending a little with Wentworth asking Anne’s father again for Anne’s hand in marriage and their conversation on their wedding day. It was really sweet and just fitting.
I would highly recommend Amanda Grange’s Captain Wentworth’s Diary for fans of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. It’s a wonderful take on Captain Wentworth’s character that is very much in keeping with the novel and expands on what was going on from his side of the story.