I honestly don’t remember the first time I read Persuasion, but it was definitely after I had already read several other novels by Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice, as you can imagine, was the first novel of hers I read, followed by Emma and others. I knew from the opening pages of Persuasion, however, that it would be my favorite Jane Austen novel.
Published in 1817, six months after Austen’s death, the novel tells the story of Anne Elliot, a 27-year-old woman whose family is forced to rent their country home and move to Bath due to financial difficulties. Anne is one of Austen’s most mature heroines, and it’s been said that this novel is perhaps Austen’s most autobiographical. We learn that seven years before the start of the novel, Anne broke off an engagement with Frederick Wentworth in part because of persuasion from her well-intentioned friends. What follows is, naturally, a love story.
When I finished re-reading Persuasion this month, I was reminded of all the many reasons why I love it. The primary reason is that I identify more with an Anne Elliot type than an Elizabeth Bennett type. That’s not to say that I don’t *love* Pride and Prejudice or simply swoon over Mr. Darcy, it’s just that Anne’s personality is closer to mine, and her relationship with Wentworth seems, in a way, more realistic than Lizzy and Darcy’s. Anne is quiet and reserved, and she thinks a lot about her life and her relationships. Also, Frederick Wentworth is perhaps the most underrated, swoon-worthy Austen hero of all time. Seriously.
Another reason I love Persuasion is because it shows Austen’s writing style perfectly. By the end of her life, Austen had solidified the social commentary style she’s so popular for. I don’t think this is seen better in any of her novels than Persuasion, which deals subtly with the differences between men and women, the ridiculous vanities we can fall prey to, and the influence our friends and families have over our decisions.
So whether you’re a true Janeite or if you’re new to the world of Jane Austen, I’d recommend Persuasion. This subtle, sweet love story will leave you with a smile. Reading the end of any Austen novel makes me think of the movie Becoming Jane, when she says “My characters shall have, after a little trouble, all that they desire.”
What a lovely thought!