Persuasion is only the second novel of Jane Austen's that I've read, the first being the ever popular Pride and Prejudice. I really love Pride and Prejudice. I’m not an Austen super fan but I enjoy her wit and style, and reading Persuasion kept that opinion pretty much the same.
Spoilers are in the summary.
Our main character in this novel, Anne Elliot, was the middle sister in a family who had recently found themselves in debt. Her father, Sir Walter Elliot, and older sister, Elizabeth, decided to rent their home, Kellynch Hall, to Admiral Croft and his wife Sophia and settle in Bath in the meantime. Instead of moving with them, Anne chose to visit her younger sister, Mary, who lived nearby. Mary, married to Charles Musgrove of Uppercross Hall, was attention needy and dramatic. Mary’s in-laws, including the sisters Henrietta and Louisa, loved Anne, though, so she always enjoyed time there.
As it turned out, Sophia’s brother Captain Frederick Wentworth was Anne’s former fiance. They had been together seven years before but broke things off because Wentworth wasn’t up to Anne’s standards - according to some of her family. Wentworth visited his sister and as a result spent a lot of time around Anne when the families dined together, took walks, or trips to visit other friends. No one else knew about their past and they managed to be polite to each other in public while hiding their true feelings, which were slowly rising up again.
Later on, Anne joined her father and sister in Bath where her cousin William Elliot had rekindled his relationships with Sir Elliot and Elizabeth. Wentworth eventually showed up, and his jealousy over William’s actions toward Anne, as well as overhearing her speak on love, prompted Wentworth to reach out toward Anne and tell her of his love. The two happily reaffirmed their love. Other family affairs were wrapped up, including an outing of William Elliot’s true character and Anne settled into life as a Captain’s wife.
I appreciated the fact that Anne was twenty-seven and not seventeen...or eighteen...or nineteen. Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, I don’t really enjoy reading romance novels with teenage characters. Of course, Anne and Captain Wentworth met and fell in love as teenagers, but the overall feel of their romance in this novel was mature and serious. Even their remembrances of their brief engagement seemed like the real deal and not just puppy love.
I found it easy to root for Anne because she was by far the most sensible person in the book. Her father strutted around like a peacock and barely noticed her existence, Elizabeth acted the same way, and Mary was selfish and constantly seeking attention. Mary’s sisters-in-law were so flighty; both showed interest in Wentworth then eventually became distracted by other men (one after just a couple days when her fiance showed back up)!
Anne was a decent, kind human and I wanted her and Wentworth to be happy, yet I thought it was a little odd that he still loved her. After all, she dumped him because he wasn’t “good enough” or “rich enough." Though Anne was heavily influenced by her godmother and mother figure, Lady Russell, to end things, I would’ve thought that he’d have found someone else to appreciate him. Maybe being around Mary, Henrietta, and Louisa convinced him to go back to the girl who wasn’t going to cause drama all the time.
I know it was Austen’s style and an occasional tool of classic novels, but there was such minimal direct interaction and dialogue between Anne and Captain Wentworth throughout the novel that I started to get disengaged. Toward the end there was a little liveliness when Captain Wentworth acknowledged his feelings but by that time the novel was wrapping up. I wasn’t able to get as emotionally invested in the romance as I would’ve liked.
This book was a not unwelcome reminder that I should read all of the works in Austen's oeuvre, but I still liked Pride and Prejudice much better (and suddenly have an urge to watch the movie). If you’ve never read Austen I recommend Pride and Prejudice first, but if you really like classic writing this one won’t steer you wrong either.
I give this a 3 of 5 because it was an okay read, just not a new favorite. My next Austen will probably be Emma but I've only got about two hundred other books up before that!