Persuasion is Jane Austen’s last novel and was completed just before she died in 1817. Although not as refined as her previous work, the novel is widely acknowledged for featuring an older heroine and advocating for the social recognition of working men, particularly those in the Royal Navy.
* CONTAINS SPOILERS
When Anne Elliot was nineteen, she was encouraged by her family to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a young officer who would go on to become a captain in the Royal Navy. Eight years later, Anne and Captain Wentworth find themselves in the same society when his sister and brother-in-law lease the Elliot family estate. Captain Wentworth has not forgiven Anne and avoids her. She is saddened by his behaviour, but even more horrified to discover that after all these years her feelings for him haven’t changed. Anne is still in love with him!
Jane Austen has yet to disappoint me. The plot about two lovers meeting years after a horrific break-up is probably my favourite out of all her novels. With Anne Elliott, we have an underdog heroine who is wise and intelligent, operating under the radar to survive the suffocation of a dysfunctional family who have no regard or respect for her. Anne is also in love with a man she can’t have … or can she? Nothing is better than unrequited love and will-they-or-won’t-they? done right and Austen has it mastered.
The biggest beef I have with Persuasion is that there is a lot of telling and not showing. We are told that Captain Wentworth is a great guy, but I’m pretty indifferent because we only get to know him through his failed flirtation with the Musgrove sisters and pouty face at social gatherings. In addition, the reunion of Anne and Captain Wentworth is quickly summarized for us, so we don’t get to experience the exquisite joy of their coming together. What did they say to one another? What were they feeling? Did she blush? Did he look at the ground with a boyish grin? Did they touch hands? These are things I must know.
Persuasion contains all of the Austen wit and social commentary that I adore, and with a heroine whom I admire greatly with the same reverence as Elinor Dashwood for her reserved and practical temperament. I was cheering for Anne because everyone had written her off. In the end, she not only married for love, but married the man her family rejected and now had to respect. I wish I could have gotten to know Captain Wentworth better and I’m hoping a really good movie adaptation will bring him to life for me. I still can’t decide which Austen novel is my favourite, but without a doubt this one completely won my heart. For now, let’s all sigh over happy endings.