Frederick Wentworth, Captain is a two-volume novel by Susan Kaye that relates the events of Jane Austen’s Persuasion from Captain Wentworth’s point of view. The first volume, None but You, came out from Wytherngate Press in 2007; volume two, For You Alone, was published in 2008.
Persuasion has been my favorite Austen novel for about 20 years now. I first read it as an undergraduate. I enrolled in a summer class that surveyed the second half of Brit Lit. All we read was novels Austen, Dickens, Hardy, and Waugh. Up to that point, I had never read any of Austen’s books. I immediately fell in love.
In retrospect, I’m not sure why I felt this way, but I immediately felt that I was like Anne Elliot waiting for my man to come back to me. (I was also a big fan of Somewhere in Time, so maybe I just liked the come-back-to-me theme.) I was still a closeted gay boy back then, who was scared to face his sexual desires. Maybe that made me feel like a woman who was watching life pass her by. Whatever the case, I loved the novel and it’s been my favorite ever since.
So, I was looking forward to reading this novel from Wentworth’s point of view. As I’ve written about before, I love Austen rewrites, but most of those seem to focus on Pride and Prejudice and Mr. Darcy. He’s great, but he’s no Wentworth. If we’re all honest about it, we’d admit that Darcy’s falling in love with Elizabeth makes no sense — Austen doesn’t really explain his conversion and personality transplant very well. But Wentworth’s love for Anne is all there for us to follow. We understand his recognition that they belong together, even though the original story is from Anne’s point of view.
What I’m getting at is that Austen gives someone like Susan Kaye a little more to work with than she does the re-writers of Pride and Prejudice. Kaye has inherited strong, believable characters and a plot that is romantic and realistic. Her task, then, is to take these elements and make something new out of them. She more than succeeds. Frederick Wentworth, Captain is arguably one of the best adaptations of any of Austen’s novels to date.
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