by Jane Austen
Unconditional Recommendation: Anne Elliot was persuaded not to marry naval officer Frederick Wentworth and now, eight years later, she must face him again when he returns to the neighborhood.
Genre: Romance, Classic
I read Persuasion right after finishing Pride and Prejudice because it was the next Jane Austen story I was most familiar with and whose movie adaptation I’d watched repeatedly. The book is a romance and a more serious one—perhaps because Anne Elliot is Austen’s oldest heroine at 28 years old. I enjoyed the book just as I did Pride and Prejudice and if you’re interested in great writing, the drama of tangled relationships, the ache of unrequited love, and a truly satisfying romance then read on!
Persuasion was published six months after Jane Austen’s death and was her last fully completed novel.
Anne Elliot, daughter of the snobbish Sir Walter Elliot, is woman of quiet charm and deep feelings. When she was nineteen she fell in love with—and was engaged to—a naval officer, the fearless and headstrong Captain Wentworth. But the young man had no fortune, and Anne allowed herself to be persuaded to give him up. Now, eight years later, Wentworth has returned to the neighborhood, a rich man and still unwed. Anne’s never-diminished love is muffled by her pride, and he seems cold and unforgiving. What happens as the two are thrown together in the social world of Bath—and as an eager new suitor appears for Anne—is touchingly and wittily told in a masterpiece that is also one of the most entrancing novels in the English language.
Unlike Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth is lacking social standing and Mr. Darcy lives in a different world, Anne is the one whose higher social standing makes marriage to Wentworth unfit in the opinions of her friends and family. And it’s their opinions that persuade her to decline. Being persuadable by others to do what they think is best for you despite what you think is the major theme of this book but other themes include regret of the past, love lost, and second chances.
Jane Austen’s writing is as brilliant in this book as in any of her others but I could be persuaded that it’s more serious and contains more feeling than the others.
Anne Elliot is a mouse of a person. She is sweet, good, helpful, faithful, and stays out of the spotlight. Her meekness and her family’s overwhelming disregard and indifference toward her make it easy to root for her. Another reviewer mentioned that Anne is sort of an underdog and I see the value in that comment. No one suspects Anne of having wants or even hopes for love and marriage and yet who is it that wins the day and the heart of the man society adores? Plain, simple, quiet Anne. Her love story is so much sweeter when the reader recognizes her as the underdog.
Jane Austen really lingers in the achingly slow build up of the story, but the climactic resolution wouldn’t be as wonderful without it! Just settle in and enjoy the details.
The story of Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth is full of doubt and regret over the past, but when hope trickles in little by little, the experience of rooting for Anne and the satisfaction of hopes realized makes a romantic soul jubilant.
Two words: the letter. The letter that Wentworth writes for Anne is what romantic hearts dream about—a deliberate explanation of actions and determined declaration of love that is the answer to all the hopes you’ve kept quietly, painfully to yourself. It is so great!