Back in September, I took part in The Classics Club’s 21st Spin event, for which my result was to re-read the wonderful Persuasion by Jane Austen. Having loved all of Austen’s finished novels, I took the opportunity, when creating my new list for the club, to include them all for a re-read.
I was thrilled with my result, as Persuasion, published posthumously in 1817 after her untimely death, is one of my favourite of Austen’s novels: being in turns both achingly sad and intensely beautiful. It is a true Cinderella story of the quiet, diligent and kindhearted Anne Elliot, who is overlooked by her vain father and selfish sisters. Anne is perhaps Austen’s most adult heroine, who while she is not as witty or feisty as Lizzy Bennett or Emma Woodhouse, I think it is hard not to like her and sympathise with her. Some might want her to be more forthright, but I admire her loyalty and thoughtfulness and she is strong in her own way.
A young, pretty Anne had a real chance for happiness when she and the dashing Frederick Wentworth fell madly in love, but her snobbish family and good friend Lady Russell persuaded her to break off their engagement, as they believed the young naval officer wasn’t good enough for the daughter of a baronet. A decision that Anne comes to deeply regret. Eight years pass, as Anne thrifts away her youth and bloom in service to her demanding father and sisters, whose pride, vanity and lavish spending has brought the family to near ruin.
Meanwhile Wentworth – now a successful, wealthy naval captain, looking for a wife – walks back into her life, as his sister and her husband, Admiral Croft take tenancy of Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate, which Anne’s family can no longer afford to run. Emotions run high as the former lovers are forced into awkward society together. Does he still love her? Can he ever forgive her? Could they ever be happy together again? Then throw into the mix the young, pretty and exuberant Musgrove sisters to turn his head, and the appearance of the handsome, prodigal heir, Mr Elliot to test Anne’s family loyalty.
All in all, I think Persuasion is a beautiful, delicate and heartbreaking classic about love lost and love won. All written with Austen’s careful, ironic observations on the people, etiquette and society of Regency England. Which made for a wonderfully comforting re-read – getting re-acquainted with its characters was like meeting up with old friends. Great read.
I’d love to hear your thoughts: Have you read this? What do you think? Have you read any of Jane Austen’s other wonderful novels?
This is book #12 for my Classics Club II.