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Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818)

persuasionTHE BOOK
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

THE STORY
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!

THE GOOD
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 BAD
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.

CONCLUSION
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.

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27 comments on “Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818)

  1. A.M.B.
    April 6, 2015

    It’s interesting to read your thoughts on this classic. Persuasion is my favorite Austen. Anne is a mature character that I can relate to at my ripe “old” age. I also think Austen’s humor comes through in the writing.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      April 7, 2015

      Not exactly a spring chicken myself, I also appreciated a mature heroine. But I think I’ve always been drawn to her characters who are composed. What is your second favourite Austen?

      Like

  2. janceewright
    April 6, 2015

    Haven’t read this one yet. Maybe I’ll tackle it for Austen in August.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      April 7, 2015

      Great idea! I might read Northanger Abbey. I still haven’t read that one.

      Like

  3. “The bad” is one of the reasons I had a hard time with this story. I didn’t feel like I knew Captain Wentworth well enough. I wasn’t interested in them one bit until her cousin Mr. Elliot came into the mix. The story seemed to drag one for no good purpose except for the end.

    But, I thought the ending was good, the letter was awesome, and I thought it was written well.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      April 7, 2015

      I felt like we got to know Mr. Elliot better than Captain Wentworth. I guess we are supposed to just trust Anne because her gut was right about Mr. Elliot. I really loved the letter of confession Captain Wentworth wrote too.

      Like

  4. stephaniesbookreviews
    April 6, 2015

    This is one of my favorite books. I love it so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    Like

  5. My Book Strings
    April 6, 2015

    Persuasion is my favorite Austen, and Anne my favorite heroine. Like you, I like her reserve and practical temperament. I can’t say that the “telling and not showing” is bothering me here; I like that I can imagine it however I want to. I’m very picky when it comes to Austen adaptions, but if a movie had the same caliber as the Sense and Sensibility adaption with Emma Thompson, I would definitely watch it.

    Like

    • Corinne
      April 6, 2015

      That’s my almost favorite movie. My very favorite is the 1994 Little Women, which many call sappy. I cry pretty much every time I watch it. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • ebookclassics
        April 7, 2015

        Sappy can be a good thing! I’m pretty sure I shed tears during a few scenes from this version of Little Women too. The Beth scene … aaahhh!

        Like

    • Naomi
      April 6, 2015

      I also love that version of Sense and Sensibility!

      Like

    • ebookclassics
      April 7, 2015

      Perhaps I need more visual as my brain power dwindles, LOL! I love that version of Sense and Sensibility as well. I never tire of watching it!

      Like

  6. Corinne
    April 6, 2015

    I tend to think Austen did a lot on purpose. She summed up the love story very suddenly: because “happily ever after” was generally assumed when a woman got married. I think she was being ironic with her endings — basically saying – “Oh, you don’t care about this part, right? Happily ever after, etc. Blah, blah, let’s scurry the female away into her role. She has now accomplished all that ever needs to be accomplished in her life, and there’s no need to dwell. The End.”

    The fact that you get to hear about Captain Wentworth mostly through hearsay — well, consider how women were often portrayed by male writers in Austen’s day. Through layers of secondary perspective. Again, I think she was purposefully being ironic.

    Only my humble thoughts, of course! πŸ™‚

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      April 7, 2015

      Ooh, I never thought of it that way, but it’s a very good point because a happy ending is the ultimate goal, isn’t it? And another good point about getting to know Captain Wentworth. I always forget to keep the time period and the social context in mind when I read the classics. The way men and women interacted was so different.

      Like

  7. Naomi
    April 6, 2015

    Persuasion comes in second for me next to P&P, I think, although it’s been quite a while since I read it. I should really read it again, but I’d be happy to watch a good movie version of it instead. Do you know if there is one?

    Like

  8. heavenali
    April 7, 2015

    Persuasion is a favourite Austen of mine along with the great P&P and Anne is definitely my favourite heroine. I think you are right about the tellling not showing I hadn’t picked up on that before but I think it is something Austen did a lot but I can’t say it ever jumped out at me enough to bother me. I don’t think I ever got to know Captain Wenworth as well as other Austen heroes.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      April 7, 2015

      If I remember correctly, Elizabeth and Darcy’s coming together was also another tell not show moment. Perhaps it’s the getting to that point that is more important than the moment itself.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Brian Joseph
    April 7, 2015

    Great commentary on this book.

    I just discovered Jane Austen with the last year. This book is one that I am likely going to read soon.

    In terms of the book telling and not showing I have found that true to some degree in both Emma as well as in Pride and Prejudice. I think to some degree it is intentional.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      April 7, 2015

      It seems that may be Austen’s style. I can’t remember Emma, but I do remember when reading P&P that I wished some scenes were played out as opposed to told to the reader. But overall, I really liked Persuasion and look forward to your thoughts.

      Like

  10. DoingDewey
    April 15, 2015

    I also have never found Austen disappointing. I agree with you about Wentworth though. I felt like we just had to take Austen’s word for it that he was a good person.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      April 17, 2015

      Thinking about Austen makes me sigh because I can’t wait to read another book. I really like how Corinne pointed out above that in Austen’s time, women probably couldn’t get to know men too deeply would have to rely on what others had to say.

      Like

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