Book Review: Persuasion – Jane Austen

Persuasion - Jane Austen

Title: Persuasion

Author: Jane Austen

Genre: Classic, Romance

First Published: 1818 (posthumously)

Pages: 254

 

Persuasion marks the last of Jane Austen’s novels—the completed ones, at least. It starts in media res (in the thick of things). In it, we follow the life of our lovable heroine, Anne Elliott. At 27, Anne is still unmarried. Her youth and bloom having disappeared early, Anne is the shell of her former self. As the story progresses, we soon learn the reason behind her resigned air and fading good looks.

About eight years prior to the start of the novel, Anne had entered into an engagement with a handsome navy officer, Frederick Wentworth. Though she loved him, she reneged on her word after her family and close friend expressed their disapproval of the ‘imprudent’ match. To them, Frederick was most unworthy of Anne. She was, after all, the daughter of a wealthy baronet, and he was a poor navy officer with little to offer. The two part ways with much ill-feeling between them.

Though the years soon pass, Anne’s feelings for Frederick remains unchanged. This becomes most apparent when the two cross paths again. But Frederick, now a successful and wealthy Captain, appears to want little to do with Anne. Will the two end up together? Well, considering this is a novel by Austen, the answer shouldn’t be that difficult to figure out. And there lies the central story of Persuasion.

Despite its seemingly simple plot, Persuasion is made interesting by its plethora of unforgettable characters. In it, we have the incredibly vain and selfish trio that composes Anne’s family—her father, Sir Walter Elliott, and her sisters, Elizabeth and Mary. We also have the scheming duo of Mr. Elliott and Mrs. Clay. But my favorite of all peripheral characters is the kind-hearted and romantic, Captain Benwick. In him, I see this sanguine personality that no amount of melancholia can completely sink. His natural disposition is to find love and give love, and though there is no disputing the appeal of the manly and handsome Captain Frederick Wentworth, there is much to love about Benwick, as well.

Beyond my usual praise for Austen’s incredible ability to infuse excitement in the everyday, what I love about Persuasion is that it showcases Austen’s growth as a writer. Many consider this final novel as somewhat unpolished compared to Emma and Mansfield Park, to me, however, the relative absence of the author breaking the fourth wall only heightens the subtlety and wit of Persuasion. Also, who doesn’t love the massive rewards delayed gratification brings?

All in all, Persuasion is a fine book which I would gladly recommend to all Classic readers and romantics.

Favorite Line: “He had an affectionate heart. He must love somebody.” – Captain James Benwick

Grade: A+

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Persuasion – Jane Austen

  1. Read this for the first time a few months ago. Agree with your comments about memorable characters. The problem I had was that the first few chapters were so good I felt the rest of the book didn’t live up to it. I felt there was a real sense of desperation at the start about the loss of money and its effect on the Elliott family – their status etc. I wanted more of that and less of the love though that does solve their problems, I suppose.

    1. Hi! You raise a very valid point there. Though, I really think that marrying Captain Wentworth is by no means enough to solve their problems. It solves one aspect, which is to get rid of Anne, but the Elliotts’ financial trouble will continue despite the ‘lucky’ marriage.

      What I liked about the book was that it made no pretensions in terms of changing Sir Walter’s, Mary’s, and Elizabeth’s behavior. Though they learned to accept Captain Wentworth as being ‘worthy’ of Anne, it wasn’t because of a change of viewpoint, so much as a change of fortune.

      Pride & Prejudice, I would think, would have the most ‘beneficial’ marriage in terms of raising the heroine’s family’s status. 🙂 Also, Austen fell ill while she was writing this novel. That’s why it has this ‘rushed’ element, IMO. Thanks for the comment and for reading the review. 🙂

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