I suspect your favourite Austen depends to a significant degree what stage of your life you are at when you read it. For me, Persuasion is my favourite, and I no coincidence that I read it at the age of 30. I love Pride and Prejudice, but for me the youthful, vibrant young women on the brink of life no longer seem so relevant to my life. Anne Elliot, however, seems so much more real and relevent.
Anne is the most mature of Austen's heroines, one who is well set up in life (financially and socially) but thinks life has passed her by and she is destined for spinsterhood. And then we see Anne's safe, familiar world turned upside down when Captain Wentworth, a former suitor and the love of her life, returns on the scene. He has not come to rekindle the relationship. He is still badly emotionally bruised and resentful at how Anne rejected him at the instigation of her friend Lady Russell. Anne saw her error long ago and greatly regrets her actions, although she has come to accept them and feels she was justified in her actions. How these two navigate these complicated emotions when forced into each other's society is fascinating to read. Of course we know how the story will end but we still feel and can reognise Anne's anxiety along the way, and get caught up in wishing the couple would reunite.
Wentworth doesn't quite live up to Darcy in the romantic hero stakes - I still maintain my literary crush on Darcy - but he is still a very appealing character. The letter which he writes Anne declaring his feelings is one of the most powerful declarations of love in literature in my opinion. It actually made my heart beat a bit faster reading it - oh to be written a letter like that!!
Not a lot actually happens in terms of plot here, but the way Austen gradually unfolds the feelings of Anne and Wentworth is beautifully done and compelling as a result. The maturity of their relationship and actions is a new area for Austen, who has usually focussed on youthful, idealistic relationships. It is one that she adapts her style to very well - if only she had lived to write more works like this! There are many interesting themes in this book - class distinctions and their worth in judging the value of someone, when to take the advice of someone and when not to, how jealousy can play a part in fuman relationships, and the value of friendship over blood relations.
Despite being her last novel, and probably not refined and corrected as Austen would usually have done, it is still and accomplished and polished work. The stage Austen has reached in her life is a clear influence on the work, as the experience and knowledge of her later years shows. It depends on deeper things than her other works. While it does show flashes of Austen's renowned wit, it does not depend on it. Like Anne, it is deeper, stronger, sturdier. This is a calm, subtle work, more nuanced, perhaps more difficult but all the more worthwhile because of this.
on 24 January 1999
A Cinderella story from the pen of one of England's finest. Anne is saddled with a father whose ego is the size of a small caribbean island and two sisters whom you will certainly love to hate. Elizabeth makes her father look modest, whilst Mary possesses all the sense and sensitivity of Sir Toby Belch. The fairy godmother figure(her deceased mother's best friend)has unfortunately made a singular error - she advised the youthful Anne against marrying a certain Captain many years ago and as a result our heroine was persuaded to let the love of her life slip through her fingers. Now perched firmly on the shelf, Anne finds herself unexpectedly swept back into company with her erstwhile lover. No longer so young & blooming herself, Anne suffers the mortification of watching him courting another girl and knowing that she has nobody but herself to blame. Enter another suitor, stage left - will Anne allow herself to be swept away by this new charmer? Will her father realise that beauty is only skin deep? Will Mary's long-suffering husband try strangling his dreadful spouse? Will Elizabeth win herself a husband? Enjoy.
on 27 May 2003
Less well-known than "Emma", "Pride and Prejudice" or "Sense and Sensibility", this is an absolute gem of a novel, and my favourite of all of Jane Austen's works. It has all the flair and comic brio of her other, more celebrated work, but a sadness and delicacy of tone that elevates it to a different level. Anne is a magnificent character, with an intelligence steeped in experience coupled with a good and true heart, and is at the centre of a novel that offers absolutely everything that you could wish for in a novel. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.
on 12 July 2007
I know most people like P&P best, but if you're a Jane Austen fan, or just someone who's seen the ever popular film adaptations of her work, I think you'll find this one a real page turner. With the speed of a more contemporary romance, it rollicks and flows through one drama after the next, all with miss Austen's incomparable wit and vivacity. If you are sticking to the more popular titles only (Pride & Prej and Emma) then expand your horizons and fall in love with these characters. Great, great read.
on 3 March 2005
"Persuasion" is a great literary work and, to my mind, Jane Austen's finest book. This was her final completed novel before her death, and was published posthumously. As is often the case with Ms. Austen's fiction, "Persuasion" deals with the social issues of the time and paints a fascinating portrait of Regency England, especially when dealing with the class system. Rigid social barriers existed - and everyone wanted to marry "up" to a higher station - and, of course, into wealth. This is also a very poignant and passionate story of love, disappointment, loss and redemption. The point Austen makes here, is that one should not ever be persuaded to abandon core values and beliefs, especially for ignoble goals. There are consequences, always.
Sir Walter Elliot, Lord of Kellynch Hall, is an extravagant, self-aggrandizing snob, and a bit of a dandy to boot. He has been a widower for many years and spends money beyond his means to increase his social stature. His eldest daughter, upon whom he dotes, is as conceited and spoiled as he is. The youngest daughter, Anne, is an intelligent, sensitive, capable, and unassuming woman in her late twenties when the story opens. She had been quite pretty at one time, but life's disappointments have taken their toll and her looks are fading. She and her sister are both spinsters. Anne had once been very much in love with a young, and as yet untried, navel officer. A woman who had been a close friend to Anne's mother, persuaded Anne to "break the connection," convincing her that she could make a much better match. After much consideration, Anne did not follow her heart or her better instincts, and she and her young officer, Frederick Wentworth, separated. She has never again found the mutual love or companionship that she had with him. Anne's older sister never married either, because she hadn't found anyone good enough! She still hopes, however, for an earl or a viscount.
The Elliot family is forced to financially retrench because of their extravagance. They lease Kellynch Hall to...of all people...Wentworth's sister and her husband. Elliot, his oldest daughter and her companion, move to a smaller lodging in Bath for the season, leaving Anne to pack up their belongings before joining them. She gets the Cinderella treatment throughout the book. Anne decides to first visit with her middle sister, an abominably spoiled, whiny hypochondriac, Mrs. Musgrove. She has made a good, but not brilliant match to a local squire. Her husband, Charles Muskgrove, his parents, and their two younger, eligible daughters, Louisa and Henrietta, are delightful. They all tolerate Mrs. Muskgrove, barely, and adore Anne. It is at the Muskgrove estate that Anne meets Frederick Wentworth again, after his absence of seven years. He is in the neighborhood, because his sister is now in the area, residing at Kellynch, of course. Wentworth is now a Captain in the Royal Navy and quite wealthy. When their eyes meet for the first time, you can absolutely feel Anne's longing and remorse. He is aloof with Anne, although civil. The man was hurtfully rejected once before and it appears that he still feels her snub. Now Wentworth is on the marriage market and Louisa sets her cap for him. Accidents and various adventures ensue, from the resorts of Lyme and Bath to the Muskgrove estate, bringing Anne and Wentworth closer together. The passion between the two is so palpable, although very understated, (this is Regency England after all). I think this is Ms. Austen at her most passionate. Some scholars say that she modeled Anne Elliot after herself.
"Persuasion" is a remarkable novel and the issues it tackles are just as germane today as they were when the book was written. And the romance...well, no one does romance better than Jane Austen.
on 13 February 2011
This is my favourite Austen. Anne is my favourite heroine and Captain Wentworth is my favourite hero, achingly melancholy apart and utterly perfect together. I have read this book many, many times and I don't think I have ever got through it dry-eyed.
I think the strength of Austen's female characters is that they are slightly apart, a little ostracised in social situations because of their uniqueness. They have spirit and opinions that most people don't understand and therefore derise as weaknesses. They are lonely, and that is a feeling that I think most women from any century are able to identify with.
What endears me especially to Anne is that this loneliness and alienation is concentrated in her, more pronounced that in Emma Woodhouse or Elizabeth Bennett. Anne is good and mild and sweet, introspective and private. She is slowly losing her bloom but still managing to avoid bitterness. And rather than compromising her personality to fit in with her father and sisters, to seek some of the companionship and affection she is so starved of, she has the strength to stick to her beliefs and not change her values.
And in the end it is clear that Captain Wentworth finds no equal to Anne anywhere - He loves her so constantly not in spite of her differences, but because of them. This is what I believe is the key to Austen's timeless success. We all want to believe that is how we find love and belonging- Not despite our perceived weirdnesses and quirks, but because of them. Believing that removes all pressure to change - And what a liberating feeling that is!
Anne Elliot is twenty seven. At the age of nineteen she was persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to refuse the proposal of marriage made by Captain Wentworth and has lived to regret her decision. But Captain Wentworth reappears in her life when his sister and brother-in-law Admiral and Mrs Croft rent Kellynch Hall from Anne's father Sir Walter Elliot. The Elliots are downsizing - in modern parlance - in order to save money and Sir Walter and his eldest daughter are moving to Bath - where Anne later joins them.
In Sir Walter Jane Austen has created a monster. He is very concerned with his own appearance and is constantly commenting on the appearance and social position of his friends and acquaintances. Think Lady Catherine de Bourgh - only worse! Bath society is well portrayed with all its snobbery and civilities. Mr Elliot - the heir presumptive to Sir Walter's title - appears in Bath and curries favour with the family he despises. Anne distrusts him but her father - who judges by appearances - is taken in.
`Persuasion' is one of the quieter novels but there is still Austen's trademark irony and love of the ridiculous with many memorable characters. Anne's younger sister - hypochondriac Mary Musgrove - married to the humorous down to earth Charles; Admiral and Mrs Croft - reminiscent of Mrs and Mrs Gardiner in `Pride and Prejudice'. Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove who at first appear to be uncaring and flirtatious but who change during the story to something more sensible and realistic, partly due to Louisa's well known accident at Lyme Regis.
The novel repays close attention to bring out all its delightful asides and like all Austen novels it is worth reading more than once. If you are new to Jane Austen I would not start with Persuasion - better to try `Pride and Prejudice' or `Northanger Abbey' first. This edition contains an interesting introduction and notes on the text as well as the original last chapter which was later changed by the author to the current ending.
on 3 July 2004
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
on 11 September 2009
The CD is everything I expected it to be. Juliet Stevenson is brilliant at reading Jane Austen novels and it is a delight to have a complete unabridged version of Persuasion. I listened to it the first time whilst ironing and ended up looking for more ironing to do so that I had an excuse to carry on listening!
on 15 March 2012
I will admit quite happily that Persuasion is my favourite book ever, and to enjoying the BBC movie probably more than I should. I saw this and thought I'd give it a go. It is worth saying that large chunks of this are very good, but I have two complaints; the first is that at times Amanda Root's reading is strangely lifeless, more interested in good diction that bringing the characters to life. This could be overcome however, if it were not for my second complaint, which is this has to be the worst abridged version of a well know story ever. The passages which have been cut clearly reveal that the editor a) did not understand the text and the importance of certain passages to the main story and the development of Anne's and Frederick's relationship and b) considered the 'amusing' incidentals of the minor characters too important to the content of an Austen novel to be exempted, and c)could not choose which storylines were important or not and therefore liberally cut chunks out of each of them, destroying the flow of each of the sub-plots.
Truly, if you'd given a monkey a keyboard with just delete and the arrows keys and told him to cut a certain amount of text you'd have less impact on the flow of the story. What is remarkable is that so much frustration can be achieved by cutting relatively so little. Because Persuasion is short the edits are slight, but every single one is surprisingly detrimental.