Book #21: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?

Jane Austen once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.

My friend Mack and I decided that we would tackle a classic a month. Okay, really, she decided and I loved the idea and piggybacked on it and now we’re doing the buddy read. The first month of us doing it was March and our book was Persuasion by Jane Austen.

I have been wanting to read this book for a while now. In fact, I’m almost done reading all of Jane Austen’s books. Anyway, I was excited to open this book and read it.

The story is about a young woman named Anne who had, eight years previous, ended an engagement with a young Naval Officer. She was persuaded that the engagement and eventual marriage was not only disadvantageous, but also would leave her penniless if something were to happen to him. Now, at the beginning of the story, Anne is nearing destitution if her father and older sister can’t stop their frivolous spending.

Luckily, the family has banded together and found a way of curbing the spending, gaining an income, and still present themselves as high societal folk. It’s called moving to Bath and putting the country estate on lease.

In a series of meetups, Anne and that Naval Officer, Capt. Wentworth, are pushed into getting to know one another again. There is, of course, other characters pushing and pulling the main leads in different ways, but Anne still has those feelings for Wentworth.

This book is different from Austen’s others. Instead of a younger eligible female lead, Anne is 27 and is very close, if not already, into spinsterhood. Anne does have that intelligence that Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice takes pride in, but she doesn’t seem to let her own vices get in the way. Anne reserves judgment and, even when she has made a decision, can reevaluate how she feels about a person. I liken Anne the adult and more mature version of Austen’s characters.

Likewise, the romance in this book is more mature than in the others. In Emma, our female lead is oblivious to what is in front of her. In Pride and Prejudice, it’s very much the same. Anne, though, knows her feelings are still there and doesn’t act on them until she is sure Wentworth feels the same.

This isn’t my favorite of Austen’s books, but I do think it’s close to my second favorite. I think if I was to list the favorites that I’ve read so far, it would be: Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Persuasion (tied with Emma), Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility.

It is a definite read for a Jane Austen fan and I do think I’d reread this book. Next month, April, we are doing Pride and Prejudice. It’s a reread for me and I won’t be reviewing it.

Final rating: 3/5

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