by Jane Austen
Amazon / Goodreads
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.
Review:Persuasion has the most streamlined plot of all of Jane Austen's novels I think. Most of the focus is on Anne and her feelings, although there are plenty of relatives with their quirks of character which is common to all of Austen's works. I've heard so many good things about this book that I really expected something much different from her earlier works, but there is still that ironic detachment from the characters, and the humor in her portrayals of their follies that make her books so entertaining. The one aspect that seemed different though is in Austen's more emotional depiction of love. It's not overly sentimental but there are scenes that vaguely tug on the heart strings. Of course I know how it all ended, so the suspense over how Captain Wentworth felt was not there to really involve me in their story, but I did find the ending highly satisfying, which is not something I have said about most of Austen's books.
While I missed the sharper wit of Elizabeth Bennet for instance, I did enjoy that Anne was a sensible and good person that the reader could root for. And as she came to terms with her choices in the past and learned from them, it was easy to feel sympathetic towards her which made me very fond of this story, even if I was not as emotionally invested in the whole. It is really the ending that makes up for the slow development of the hesitant re-connection between Anne and Captain Wentworth. I felt the story could have been much more effective had it been shorter.
Persuasion is a worthy read though, and more enjoyable on many levels than some of Austen's other works, especially if you like sympathetic characters and a more romantic than usual (for Austen) ending. It's a delicate story, with finely drawn characters and a delightful resolution.
Seventh book read in the Classics Club Challenge
And my last read for the 2014 Jane Austen Challenge
Having finally finished reading all of Austen's novels, I would like to say that I think Pride and Prejudice would be my favorite of her works (although it's been a long time since I read it!) and my least favorite would be... Emma.