Thursday, 7 March 2013

Review: Persuasion, Jane Austen


Jane Austen

Kindle edition (public domain), 2009 (1817)

Written at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Persuasion is a tale of love, heartache and the determination of one woman as she strives to reignite a lost love. Anne Elliot is persuaded by her friends and family to reject a marriage proposal from Captain Wentworth because he lacks in fortune and rank. More than seven years later, when he returns home from the Navy, Anne realises she still has strong feelings for him, but Wentworth only appears to have eyes for a friend of Anne’s. Moving, tender, but intrinsically ‘Austen’ in style, with its satirical portrayal of the vanity of society in eighteenth-century England, Persuasion celebrates enduring love and hope.

Recently I read an article on the BBC News website about women in China being labelled "sheng nu" (leftover) if they were unmarried at 27, and "leftover" is just about what Anne Elliot is DOOMED to be in Persuasion. Saddled with a vain father, a snooty older sister (Elizabeth) and an attention-seeking hypochondriac for a younger sister (Mary), Anne isn't doing particularly well in the family stakes and, to top it all off, her engagement some years ago to Captain Wentworth was nixed by her friend Lady Russell, who thought Anne could do better. THANKS EVERYONE, thought Anne.

Most of the book takes place while Anne is staying with Mary, after her father and Elizabeth traipse off to Bath after spending too much money and having to rent out their country home. During her stay with Mary, Captain Wentworth pops back up (his sister and brother-in-law are the ones renting out the Elliots' house) and an elaborate dance of WILL-THEY-WON'T-THEY commences, only to be somewhat thwarted by Louisa Musgrove taking a blow to the head in Lyme Regis. (Of all the places to be knocked unconscious.)

The final section of the book moves to Bath with Anne, who chafes at her family's inelegant and snobbish ways, and must endure a fair amount of other people telling her what to do and who to do it with, before she has an epiphany moment and realises she should probably do what she wants, instead. GOOD FOR YOU, ANNE.

I enjoyed Persuasion - there were a lot of funny moments, mostly due to Austen's subtly scathing sketches of the less appealing characters, particular the Elliots - and Anne is a likable protagonist. The action is quite slow at times - a lot of the plot is driven by conversation and observations rather than dramatic events - but there was enough to keep me hooked until the end, and it was very satisfying when one character in particular was revealed as a bit of a scoundrel. As with Pride & Prejudice, there was a lot of focus on women's choices (or lack thereof), and the way in which marrying well is often elevated above marrying someone you might actually like. So, things Persuasion has taught me: 1) There's no such thing as too much coincidence. 2) Letter writing has never been more intense. 3) No jumping off the harbour wall.

Overall rating: 7/10

Book source: Free Kindle download.


  1. This does sound fun, which I wouldn't usually expect from a classic! I like the focus on womens' rights and thanks for letting me know about the Kindle version, I just got it!

  2. Austen's books are definitely slow-paced but I do like them :) I haven't read Persuasion yet but I'm hoping to pick it up this year. So glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  3. Persuasion is definitely my favourite Austen. There is something about Anne's strength and no-nonsense attitude that really appeals to me.


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