Oh, Miss Austen. What have you done to me? Persuasion is the first Austen novel I’ve read, and oh my goodness! I’ll admit; I was familiar with the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth due to my viewing of 1995’s film adaptation of the same name. It’s a well-loved (read: worn) dvd in my collection, and I wanted to give myself the pleasure of having read the novel. After all, isn’t the book always better?
Persuasion follows the story of Anne Elliot, the daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, a vapid and prideful man who cares for nothing other than his own name and his own reflection. Eight years prior, when Anne was nineteen years old, she was persuaded by a family friend to reject Frederick Wentworth’s proposal on the basis of his being of inferior birth with no money to his name. By the time the story starts, Anne is twenty-seven years old (only one year older than me at the time of reading this!) and considered by many an old maid of sorts. Frederick Wentworth is now Captain with an amassed fortune of twenty thousand pounds(!). Due to finances no longer being what they were, the Elliot family must leave their home at Kellynch Hall, providing the catalyst for Anne and Wentworth’s meeting again.
Anne’s character is one of kindness, humility, and sensibility. While I felt for her and tried to understand her decisions, several times I wanted to jump into the novel and push her toward happiness. I couldn’t bear to see her so unhappy in several of the chapters. However, Anne’s personality is juxtaposed by her family, almost all of whom are shallow, superficial, and sometimes just plain hilarious. Of course, this is an Austen novel, so the social commentary jumps off the page and throttles the reader. I loved hearing about Anne’s happenings in Bath and Lyme with the Musgroves, a family her sister, Mary, married into.
Despite the precise and cutting narration, as I’ve said before, this is a Jane Austen novel, and no Austen novel would be complete without a healthy dose of romance. Austen writes feeling and emotion so clearly, as a reader, I can clearly imagine every thought going on in Anne’s head and feel exactly what she feels. Perhaps a small spoiler (!), but the letter at the end of the novel was completely swoon-worthy and earned a little heart marked in the margin of my copy. I don’t want to give too much away, but while this is one of Austen’s more mature novels (with an older heroine and written at the end of Austen’s life), the romance doesn’t falter throughout the story. It only grows, causing me to lose track of time whilst getting lost in the pages.
Knocking Herman Melville’s Moby Dick down a peg and becoming my new favorite book, Persuasion is a delight and must be added to everyone’s ever-growing TBR list.