Persuasion by Jane Austen has been a favorite of mine for years. I have read it for fun, in university courses, and seen the movie adaptations (love the 1995 film!). I may or may not own at least 3 copies of Persuasion. I jumped at the chance to add it to my Classics Club list so I could review it properly here.
- I love this novel because it’s a love story, but also a story about learning about and being comfortable with yourself.
- This novel is shorter than several (if not all?) Austen novels. So it makes it more readable for a larger audience.
- I just love Anne and Captain Wentworth.
- Austen has such a beautiful language and timeless understanding of human nature.
Persuasion by Jane Austen follows the story of Anne Elliot, second daughter to the vain spendthrift Sir Walter Elliot. When her father must leave his home at Kellynch Hall to hopefully curb his spending habits in Bath, Anne spends time with her sister Mary’s extended family and meets (again) a Captain Fredrick Wentworth. We learn that Anne and Wentworth were in love but she broke off their engagement because he had no impressive prospects. Initially, they meet again only as acquaintances, experiencing much together including a tragic visit to Lyme, a concert in Bath, and overheard conversations. Anne and Wentworth discover that their feelings have not changed as drastically as they each feared.
I think Austen’s titles are all quite intentional. They teach us something about human nature and how we can interact with the world. Persuasion teaches me that we must balance our persuasion in life between ourselves and those we respect. In her youth, Anne is completely persuaded to refuse Captain Wentworth. That persuasion brings her sorrow and unhappiness that she must recover from for many years. Conversely, her decision to accept Wentworth 8.5 years later seems to be a more balanced decision. She is able to persuade her family and friends to accept that decision.
Anne is a unique Austen heroine but also quite likable. She is well off and respected in society but she is also quiet and reserved. Anne is loyal to her family and respects those with more experience than herself. She is kind and humble. More importantly, she has a nurturing spirit–helping Mary’s boy after his accident and keeping her head after Louisa’s fall. I find myself rooting for Anne from the beginning. Perhaps because she deserves more love but also because she is a genuinely good person.
Captain Wentworth is a classic Austen hero. When we first meet him, he is proud (like Mr. Darcy), successful and respected (like Mr. Knightley). As we get to know his better, we see a kinder, more loving side of him (like that of Mr. Edward Feris or Edmund Bertram). Wentworth has made his fortune and tried to forget Anne. Honestly, I didn’t like him at first when he was trying not to talk to Anne and flirting so ridiculously with the Musgrove sisters. I much prefer the Captain Wentworth in Bath who is more agreeable towards Anne (and of course ultimately proposes to her).
Jane Austen has such an incredible ability to create a beautiful story out of a simple situation. Much of the plot of this novel occurs over almost a year of time. While the events are fairly subdued overall (except the accident in Lyme), they are compellingly written. We read about walks and parlor conversations, visits and concerts, dinner and breakfast table banter. These are all simple scenes of life. And yet Austen gives us such clear perspectives of characters’ dispositions and motives. I found myself annoyed at Sir Walter’s ridiculous vanity and frustrated with Elizabeth’s conceited remarks towards Anne. I laughed with the easy, loving Musgrove family and ached for to loss of Fanny Harville with her brother and fiance. I cringed at Mr Elliot’s duplicity and unreliable motives. Ultimately, I smiled as Anne and Wentworth admitted their true feelings and found their happiness together.
What I love most about Austen’s style is how accessible it is, despite being more complex than how we speak today. No one can write quite like Jane Austen does. And I am always impressed that she lived a fairly sheltered life but can write so compellingly and so completely about human experience. I often found myself wrapped up in the clever and sophisticated way Austen uses words. She can describe a conversation between friends that becomes a demonstration of the complexity of truth. But I can follow her the whole way. That is what makes Austen special–the beauty and complexity of language made clear for her wide audience.
My favorite part of the novel is easily the ending. I adore the way Wentworth admits his true feelings for Anne in a hastily written love letter. I love how overwhelmed Anne gets and how she needs time to collect herself. I love that they end up together walking home and discuss everything in detail. I love that they can talk about their past and move forward together. There is nothing quite like a Jane Austen proposal for its sophistication and for its tenderness.
Persuasion proved to still be among my favorite novels of all time. I highly recommend it!
Which Jane Austen novel do you love? What do you think of Persuasion?