Recently I found myself on a road trip without a book to read—except for what was on my Kobo. I flipped through my library, most of which is classics I had downloaded for free, and decided it was time to read a Jane Austen novel again. Persuasion is one of my favourites and so I pulled it up and started.
I’ve read Persuasion before so I knew the story, but even so, I found the first chapter a bit slow. Once the story got around to Anne, however, I couldn’t read fast enough. Anne is a middle child (like me) and often overshadowed by her sisters. Her oldest sister, Elizabeth, is exactly like their father and so gets all of his attention, and her youngest sister, Mary, is married and very self-centered. Anne is plain, quiet, loyal, wise, unselfish, and ignored.
Almost a decade earlier, Anne had been courted by a young man who had great hopes of making his fortune in the navy. Because he had not yet made that fortune, however, Anne’s family and friends persuaded her to give up the engagement. He soon made that fortune, but Anne became an old maid, wondering if she should have listened to her family’s advice.
As the story opens, Anne’s father is having to cut back on his expenses. He decides to rent out his estate and move to Bath, but his new tenant happens to be Anne’s ex-fiance’s sister and her husband—thus bringing Anne and Captain Wentworth into contact again. They must get to know each other all over again and find out if the love of the past can be rekindled—and whether the persuasion of others is a good force or bad.
One thing that struck me as I read Persuasion is Jane Austen’s insight into human character. It is this that has made her books stand the test of time. Early in the novel, Mary complains to Anne, “So you and I are to be left to shift by ourselves, with this poor sick child… I knew how it would be! This is always my luck. If there is anything disagreeable going on, men are always sure to get out of it…” Jane shows us the range of human character in the novel and quietly pokes fun at the foibles of Anne’s family and friends. I thoroughly enjoyed her insights into Bath and English society of that era, and yet I also found much that hasn’t changed from her time to ours.
Jane is well-known for the opening lines of Pride and Prejudice, which are justifiably quotable. At the back of Persuasion, I found a similar line that is equally quotable: “When any two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure by perseverance to carry their point, be they ever so poor, or ever so imprudent, or ever so little likely to be necessary to each other’s ultimate comfort.”
Whether you are an old Jane Austen fan or have never read one of her novels, I would recommend Persuasion. It is Jane’s last and best novel, with a very likable heroine, much to think about, and even much to smile about.
Bonnie Way is an avid reader, blogger, and mom of three daughters. She was first introduced to Jane Austen by her best friend and later had a chance to study Jane’s novels while completing her Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Now she’s more likely to be found driving her daughters to school, making crafts with them, or reading shorter books to them. Her musings on books, motherhood and more can be found at http://www.thekoalabearwriter.com.