Set in an alternate universe with a class system the main characters have to overcome the values they have been taught since childhood. In this retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Elliot North, the daughter of a farmer, is confronted with her feelings when her childhood friend Kai returns. Four years ago, she did not run away with him and now she meets him again though he seems to be nothing like before.
The society is divided after a failed genetic experiment caused the Reduction and the surviving and newly formed upper class renounces the use of technology. The part of the population that received mental damage following the experiment is exploited as workers for the wealthy. Kai was born into this class yet he was as any other child and despised the class system so he ran away.
One day, Elliot’s father destroys the crops that she planted and without the harvest they will need to get money from elsewhere to finance the estate. Therefore, she is forced to rent out land to explorers. One of them is turns out to be the long gone Kai. When Elliot and Kai meet, their relationship is very tense and icy.
Elliot eventually discovers that the explorers keep a secret that has the power to change everything. She again has to choose, this time between keeping their secret and telling on them. Because of the nature of the secret, she either has to abandon everything she was ever taught or take a step into an unknown and possibly fatal future.
I haven’t read the original by Jane Austen yet but I will after reading this retelling. The chances though, that I will not love the original as much as this work are high.
I love the world that Diana Peterfreund created with the society divided by a failed genetic experiment. This raises awareness of the problems that could arise from a failed experiment of any kind. People have to stay critical and weight the good against the bad concerning the outcome.
I also like the main character Elliot as she struggles with what she was told and how it does not necessarily fit into how she sees the world. Through letters she exchange with Kai when they were young the author builds an understanding of Elliot’s thoughts and actions. But also Kai is getting more background and structure.
The interactions between those two now is so intense and cold I literally got goose bumps while reading. I have to say that this one and the second book are the only books I ever had a physical reaction of any sort to. The writing style just captivated me and I felt sorry, happy, and sad and so much more for Elliot during her experiences.
I like how she always has doubts about what she is told to do or think, that she wants to make up her own mind. I feel this is a great message and as a physicist I can especially relate to this kind of behaviour and I would encourage everybody to do so as well. This does not mean that one cannot accept advice, just that stubborn believe in what others tell you is not necessarily a good thing.
Another trait that I particularly like about Elliot is her will to help those she cares about even if it means negative consequences for herself. She oftentimes does things for others, even when she gets hurt in the process by e.g. Kai and his sometimes very wounding words or actions.
And then this quote:
No matter where I went, I always knew my way back to you. You are my compass star.
Well, what can I say, expresses my feelings towards the book…