Date of Publication: 1818
Number of Pages: 237
Synopsis (from back cover): “All the privilege I claim for my own sex…is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.”
Anne Elliot’s heartfelt words strike the keynote of Jane Austen’s last completed novel. It features a heroine older and wiser than her predecessors in earlier books, and its tone is more intimate and sober as Jane Austen unfolds a simple love-story with depth and subtlety.
She described her heroine in a letter as “almost too good for me”: Anne Elliot’s goodness is not of the cloying kind, but an unsentimental quality that, combined with stoicism and integrity, enables her to find happiness in love after seven years when it seemed she had for ever put an end to such a prospect.
The settings of Lyme Regis and Bath are evoked no less vividly than the characters who frequent them, and Jane Austen’s achievement is exemplified by Tennyson’s famous remark when visiting Lyme in 1867: “Now take me to the Cobb, and show me the steps from which Louisa Musgrove fell.”
Review: This is my favorite Jane Austen, and I tend to read it when I have that need for some “Austen therapy”. Anne is much older than any other Austen heroine (she is 28 by the end of the book), but that difference in age has made her more wise, thoughtful, intelligent, and sensitive. She has known the pain of disappointed love, and has lived through it. She didn’t “die of a broken heart” or anything like that. She suffered, learned from it, and managed to come out the other side with her senses intact.
Like all Austen heroines, there is nothing sentimental about her or her romance with Captain Wentworth. In fact, their interactions with each other, after an absence of eight years, illustrate how very realistic the story is. Wentworth is angry and resentful, and uses the young, spirited Louisa Musgrove to make Anne see that she has no power over him, even to make her jealous. Most of us have had similar experiences with ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends. The book is completely relevant to the lives of modern readers, which is the very thing that keeps Jane Austen fresh after all these years.
Persuasion is also supremely entertaining, with delightful and hilariously vapid characters, such as the vain Sir Walter Elliot, the conniving William Elliot, the the petulant and constantly ill-used Mary Musgrove, and the scheming Mrs. Clay. Any fan of Austen will already have read this book, but any beginner Austen fan, or someone who has not yet ventured to try Austen yet, but is curious, should read this book.