Like all of her novels, Jane Austen's PERSUASION is essentially a comedy of manners--a work in which the characters must negotiate a complex code of conduct in order to survive, much less achieve their ends. And in a certain sense the novel is indicative of Austen's great talent, razor sharp, laced with irony and wit, and remarkably phrased. And yet PERSUASION is quite unlike Austen's other novels in the story it tells.
Eight years earlier, Anne Elliot fell in love with a man named Wentworth. Her family and friends disdained the match, arguing that the man was below her in station and lacked any fortune with which to maintain Anne in her accustomed mode of life. Persuaded to reject him against her own will, Anne broke off the engagement--and thereafter found herself unable to love another even as she endured the follies of her father and two sisters. But Wentworth has returned, having made his name and fortune with the British navy, and it is now his turn to reject her.
Published in 1816, PERSUASION is the last novel Austen completed before her death a year later, and it is remarkable for a very autumnal tone. Unlike such Austen masterpieces as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and EMMA, the herione is not a spirited, quickwitted young women on the verge of matrimony; the hero is not a dashing gentlemen of great estate; there is no verbal duel between the sexes. It is instead the story of a commonsense and pleasantly ordinary woman who considers herself past the likelihood of marriage--and who now wishes only to escape the emotional pain and humiliation visited upon her by a suitor from long ago.
While PERSUASION does not really stand along Austen's greatest works, it is nonetheless a very fine novel, a delicately wrought tale of opportunity lost and the passage of time, told in the uniquely piercing style so typical of the author--and while, of course, all eventually comes right for the romantically downtrodden Anne, it has a touch of melancholy quite unlike the tone of her other novels. Austen readers will find it a delight.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer