291 of 303 people found the following review helpful
"Persuasion" is a great literary work, and, to my mind, Jane Austen's finest book. This was her final completed novel before her death, and was published posthumously. As is often the case with Ms. Austen's fiction, "Persuasion" deals with the social issues of the times and paints a fascinating portrait of Regency England, especially when dealing with the class system. Rigid social barriers existed - and everyone wanted to marry "up" to a higher station - and, of course, into wealth. This is also a very poignant and passionate story of love, disappointment, loss and redemption. The point Austen makes here, is that one should not ever be persuaded to abandon core values and beliefs, especially for ignoble goals. There are consequences, always.
Gillian Beer writes a fascinating Introduction in this Penguin Classic Edition, in which she discusses Miss Austen's portrayal of the double-edged nature of persuasion. This complete and unabridged edition also contains a biography of the author, an Afterword, a new chronology and full textual notes.
Sir Walter Elliot, Lord of Kellynch Hall, is an extravagant, self-aggrandizing snob, and a bit of a dandy to boot. He has been a widower for many years and spends money beyond his means to increase his social stature. His eldest daughter, who he dotes on, is as conceited and spoiled as he is. The youngest daughter, Anne, is an intelligent, sensitive, capable and unassuming woman in her late twenties when the story opens. She had been quite pretty at one time, but life's disappointments have taken their toll and her looks are fading. She and her sister are both spinsters. Anne had once been very much in love with a young, and as yet untried, navel officer. A woman who had been a close friend to Anne's mother, persuaded Anne to "break the connection," convincing her that she could make a much better match. After much consideration, Anne did not follow her heart or her better instincts, and she and her young officer, Frederick Wentworth, separated. She has never again found the mutual love or companionship that she had with him. Anne's older sister never married either, because she hadn't found anyone good enough! She still hopes, however, for an earl or a viscount.
The Elliot family is forced to financially retrench because of their extravagance. They lease Kellynch Hall to...of all people...Wentworth's sister and her husband. Elliot, his oldest daughter and her companion, move to a smaller lodging in Bath for the season, leaving Anne to pack up their belongings before joining them. She gets the Cinderella treatment throughout the book. Anne decides to first visit with her middle sister, an abominably spoiled, whiny hypochondriac, Mrs. Musgrove. She has made a good, but not brilliant match to a local squire. Her husband, Charles Muskgrove, his parents, and their two younger, eligible daughters, Louisa and Henrietta, are delightful. They all tolerate Mrs. Muskgrove, barely, and adore Anne. It is at the Muskgrove estate that Anne meets Frederick Wentworth again, after his absence of seven years. He is in the neighborhood, because his sister is now in the area, residing at Kellynch, of course. Wentworth is now a Captain in the Royal Navy and quite wealthy. When their eyes meet for the first time, you can absolutely feel Anne's longing and remorse. He is aloof with Anne, although civil. The man was hurtfully rejected once before and it appears that he still feels her snub. Now Wentworth is on the marriage market and Louisa sets her cap for him. Accidents and various adventures ensue, from the resorts of Lyme and Bath to the Muskgrove estate, bringing Anne and Wentworth closer together. The passion between the two is sooo palpable, although Very understated, (this is Regency England after all). I think this is Ms. Austen at her most passionate. Some scholars say that she modeled Anne Elliot after herself.
This remarkable novel, and the issues it tackles, is just as germane today as it was when written. And the romance...well, no one does romance better than Jane Austen.
112 of 114 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2002
This book is one of my favorites of all time. Many people dislike it or don't like it as much when compared to Pride and Prejudice or Emma, but there are many reasons why Persuasion should not be compared to Austen's other novels. This novel was the last one that Austen wrote before she died. It is a more mature novel, dealing with many issues not found in Austen's previous novels. One reason why people find faults with the book is that Anne Elliot, the heroine, is not as spunky or witty as an Elizabeth Bennett or an Emma Woodhouse. There is not so much wit flowing in the dialogue between characters, or even dialogue in general. But these differences between the novels make this one so unique.
It is a novel of second chances. Anne Elliot, no longer in the bloom of youth, is a grown woman of 27 or 28 years. Eight years ago she had been happily in love with a handsome man named Frederick Wentworth. But, unfortunately, due to his financial status, and Anne under the influence of her family and close friend, was forced to reject his marriage proposal and they parted ways. But now, he is within her closest circle once again. Circumstances led to Anne staying with her married sister, Mrs. Muskgrove, while her own house was being let to Wentworth's sister and husband. Wentworth visits his sister and on calling on the Muskgroves finds Anne among them. Anne finds Wentworth, not only looking as good as he ever did, but is now Captain Wentworth, who has made his fortune. Wentworth, still angry with Anne over being rejected, causes him to treat Anne very cooly. But over many weeks of contact here and there, you catch on that Captain Wentworth isn't all that oblivious to Anne anymore, because of all the little 'glimpses' he throws at Anne. The tension between the two is amazing. You can sense a connection between the two, even though they are on opposite ends of the room. In Bath, the tension builds and builds until it culminates into one of the most moving and romantic reunions ever. The letter that Wentworth writes to Anne declaring his love is bound to bring a tear to your eye and a pang in your heart. Happily, all ends well, but throughout the novel you can easily sympathize with Anne. No longer youthful and no longer as pretty as she used to be, she is full of self-consciousness and confusion. She still loves him after all those years, but she cannot act upon her desires.
Austen, yet again, excels in portraying her characters. Anne and Captain Wentworth are full and delightful characters that one must love. Her descriptions of Anne's vain father and snobbish older sister, Elizabeth, hit the mark on satirizing the members of society during that time. She wittingly describes how everyone tolerates Mrs. Muskgrove's hypochondriatic self and how everyone deals with her in their own way. There is not so much dialogue between characters in this book, compared to Austen's other novels. Most of the book is in observation of Anne's character and feelings, which makes it so much easier to relate to everything that Anne feels and you understand her situation all the more. This is a wonderful novel, with many qualities, differing from those of Austen's previous novels, to enjoy and admire.
80 of 84 people found the following review helpful
Over the years, I have read "Persuasion" by Jane Austen at LEAST 10 times. Simply put, it is my favorite book. While not everyone holds this novel with the same high esteem that I do, I urge those who have NOT read "Persuasion" to buy it.
This book has meant different things to me at different times in my life. I have often reflected why I find the story so fascinating and believe it is because it so accurately portrays the human spirit and exposes our flaws and strengths with such transparency.
Jane Austen reveals those who are so superficial that they see no goodness or worth other than beauty and wealth (Anne's father and sister); those who are so dependent that they do not listen to their own heart - but instead leave their most important decisions for others to make (Anne herself); and those whose pride has been wounded.
And perhaps what is so captivating, Austen lets the reader vicariously "undo" an error in judgment. This is an excellent and timeless novel.
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2005
This review is for the Norton Critical Edition of Persuasion, and has two parts: a review of Persuasion itself, and a review of Norton Content.
No educated person disputes Austen's contribution to the literary world. While her particular craft may not be palatable to all types (whose is?), I maintain that of all Austen's works, Persuasion is the one to hold the most appeal to those unfamiliar with her literature. It could be a `gateway drug', introducing the reader to Austen, or it could be a delightful `one-book stand'; whichever way works for the reader.
Concealed within Regency trappings is a universal story: there is a `mythic' quality to it in the sense that C.S. Lewis defines myth. The story reaches through space and time to grab the heart and attention of the reader, compelling her both on and deeper. When the novel opens, Anne Elliot faces the prospect of meeting once again a man with whom she was compelled to break off an engagement nearly eight years prior. While relatively little outward action takes place, Austen builds tension through Anne's inner conflict. Peripheral issues, such as the nature of the change in social systems in this turbulent time in Britain and the place of women in society, serve as complementary fare that highlights the mounting dilemma that Anne faces. In Austen style, the resolution and denouement are highly satisfying and truly ingenious, and the reader is left with meaty material to savor for days to come.
The Norton contribution to Persuasion is indispensable. Though I was previously familiar with Persuasion, a favorite professor of mine introduced me to the commentary and contributions within this edition. The preface lays out a road map of sorts for the rest of the book. Included immediately after the conclusion of the novel is the original ending-something that even the non-lit majors in my class found interesting. A fabulous selection of backgrounds and contexts follows, with items such as Henry Austen's "Biographical Notice of the Author", and a selection from Richard Whateley's "Review of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion", entitled "A New Style of Novel".
Additionally, modern critical commentary is included from Austen scholars Marilyn Butler, Ann Astell, Claudia Johnson, and others. Appearing at the end are a helpful chronology and selected bibliography. Patricia Meyer Spacks did a fabulous and much appreciated job in editing and pulling the work together. This edition is highly recommended, both within the classroom, and without.
46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2006
One of the major sources of contention and strife in my marriage is the disagreement between my wife and me over what is the best Jane Austen novel (yes, we are both more than a bit geekish in our love of words and literature--our second biggest ongoing quarrel is about the merits of the serial comma).
For my money, there are three of Austen's six finished novels that one can make a good argument for being her "best":
"Pride and Prejudice" (the popular choice, and my wife's)
"Emma" (the educated choice--most lit profs go with this one)
"Persuasion" (the truly refined choice)
Harrold Bloom in "The Western Canon" calls it perhaps a "perfect novel," and while I disagree with some of his interpretations of the characters (yes, blasphemy, I know), I wholeheartedly concur with his overal assessment.
While all of Austen's novels are generally comic, "Persuasion" is the most nuanced. It's been described as "autumnal" and that word suits it. There's a bittersweetness to it that you just don't get in Austen's other work.
The novel it comes closest to in terms of character and plot is probably one of her earliest novels "Sense and Sensibility." Like Eleanor in that novel, Anne is older and more mature than the typical Austen heroine. In fact, she's dangerously close to being "over the hill" at the age of 27(!). Love has passed her by, apparently.
But unlike Eleanor, who one always feels will muddle through even if she ends up disappointed in affairs of the heart, there's something more dramatically at stake with Anne. She is in great danger of ceasing to exist, not physically, but socially. When we meet her, she's barely there at all. Although a woman of strong feelings, she is ignored and literally overlooked by most of the other characters. In the universe of Austen's novels, the individual doesn't truly exist unless connected with the social world, and while Anne has a stoic strength, we understand that she is in some senses doomed if things don't change for her.
This is where we see what the mature Austen can do with a character type that she couldn't when she was younger.
This edition also has the original ending of the novel included as an appendix, which gives us a rare and fascinating look in to Austen as a technical artist.
I read this novel as an undergraduate, and have reread it several times since. I even took the novel with me to Bath on a trip to England, and spent a wonderful summer evening reading it while sitting in Sidney Gardens, across the street from one of the homes Austen lived in during her time in Bath, listening to Mozart's Piano Concerto #27. It's one of my favorite memories.
More than any other of her novels, "Persuasion" shows how Austen dealt with profound existential questions within the confines of her deceptively limited setting and cast of characters. Those who think Austen is simply a highbrow precursor to contemporary romance novels or social comedies are missing the colossal depth of thought that is beneath the surface of any of her novels, this one most of all.
Austen is nearly unique in the history of the novel for the consistency of her excellence. While most novelists have a clear masterpiece that stands out among their work, and usually a fairly sizable number of works that are adequate but not enduring, all of Austen's novels stand up to repeated readings and deserve a wide audience among today's readers.
Having said that, "Persuasion" is simply the best of the best.
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Certainly one of the greatest literary minds of all time is that of Jane Austen, an author who has been much-maligned by her unfair modern association with "chick-lit" (it's nice that "Bridget Jones' Diary" was based on "Pride and Prejudice," but that should not reflect unduly on Austen's work). The trick is that while Austen's novels do tend to center on a romantic plot they are imbued with many other facets that make them so much more than trifling entertainments. Sharp social commentary is particularly prevalent in all of her novels, perhaps none more-so than her final work, "Persuasion" -- with its deft handling of a woman's place in society and of the difficulties imposed by class barriers. Its focus is on Anne Elliot, middle child of the pretentious Sir Walter, who has no use for her in his life -- choosing to favor his eldest daughter Elizabeth (who, truly, takes after her father in all selfish respects) and to offer regard to his youngest, Mary, at least as a woman who has fulfilled her purpose by marrying satisfactorily. Years earlier Lady Russell, a family friend who became a sort of surrogate parent to Anne after her mother's death, persuaded Anne to break her engagement to her beloved Frederick Wentworth, believing him to be an inferior sort of person who would only make Anne miserable in time. Now, eight years later, Wentworth is a successful captain in the British navy who has proven that he would have been a more than worthy match for Anne in situation as well as affection. But when he comes back into her life, Anne must live with the consequences of her earlier decision as Wentworth appears to have moved on -- actively seeking a wife right under Anne's nose. Anne also finds herself being courted by her cousin William, who would be a perfectly sensible match for her, but since her heart still belongs to Captain Wentworth she cannot bear to consider it. The plot conventions will be familiar to fans of Austen, but that does not detract from the sharpness and enjoyability of the tale in the slightest. The keen observations are on target, and "Persuasion" has the added benefit of having some of the best characters in the Austen canon this side of "Pride and Prejudice". Anne proves to be a heroine worthy of Elizabeth Bennet's approval, and Captain Wentworth an amiable counterpoint to the steelier Mr. Darcy. Mary's histrionics are reminiscent of the wailings of Mrs. Bennet, providing blissful comic relief without becoming too overbearing. Best of all, naturally, is the omnipresent Austen wit -- an incomparable achievement in all of her novels, on fine display here in "Persuasion". Anyone who has not yet experienced Jane Austen is missing out on some enjoyable and delightfully thought-provoking reading, and should get started as soon as possible.
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
PERSUASION, the last novel that Jane Austen completed before her death in 1818, tells the story of one Anne Elliot, the second daughter of a baronet who has spent his waythrough his fortune and has nothing but his title to lean on.
When she was 21 years old, Anne fell in love with and was engaged to Frederick Wentworth, a young captain in the Navy. Her belated mother's best friend, Lady Russell, dissapproves of the match as being below Anne, due to Anne's claim to nobility, and Anne cancels the engagement, much to her and and Captain Wentworth's grief.
Nearly eight year's have passed since she broke off her engagement to Captain Wentworth when she, Lady Russell, and a Mr. Shepherd, a friend of her father's, are forced to pose and intervention and tell her father that he must quit his estate and find someone to lease it to, or he will be sent tot he poorhouse. Her father, his only pride being in his social position and personal appearance, relents, but only if they can find suitable tenants - which they do in Admiral Croft and his wife, the sister of Captain Wentworth.
Anne thinks that her broken heart has mended, until she sees him again. unfortunately, he is now attached to another . . . and yet Anne sees clues in his behavior that he may be hers once again. Anne and Wentworth must negotiate their past, their different social classes, and proper behavior to find their way back to one another.
What sets PERSUASION appart from Austens' other novels is how modern it seems in comparison. Austen takes more liberty with point of view in this novel, the characters have much richer inner lives than the Bennet's or Dashwood's ever did.
This novel is highly recommended to anyone who would enjoy Jane Austen. Though the ending is predictable, it does not always seem so, and therefore the novel was a very suspenseful read.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2000
I know a lot of teens who, when I tell them I am reading Jane Austen, say, "What are you thinking?" because they have read Sense and Sensibility first, before trying any of her easier works. Persuasion is the easiest book of Austen's to get into, to follow, and to love. She makes the characters real by explaining them in many situations. When I read this book, I instantly became friends with Anne Elliot, the family outcast, because she was an outcast. Then she became even more my friend when she became the beloved and desired friend and love of Captain Wentworth. I loved seeing Anne go through the difficulties of dealing with her past actions, and instead of wanting to go back and change the past, she wanted to go forward and decide the future. Austen masterfully portrays all of her characters, and I would love to go to Lyme and see where Anne met her cousin, and to Bath to see where she and Captain Wentworth decided their future together. Persuasion is my favorite book of Austen's, and if you read it, it will be yours, too.
43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Like all of her novels, Jane Austen's PERSUASION is essentially a comedy of manners--a work in which the characters must negotiate a complex code of conduct in order to survive, much less achieve their ends. And in a certain sense the novel is indicative of Austen's great talent, razor sharp, laced with irony and wit, and remarkably phrased. And yet PERSUASION is quite unlike Austen's other novels in the story it tells.
Eight years earlier, Anne Elliot fell in love with a man named Wentworth. Her family and friends disdained the match, arguing that the man was below her in station and lacked any fortune with which to maintain Anne in her accustomed mode of life. Persuaded to reject him against her own will, Anne broke off the engagement--and thereafter found herself unable to love another even as she endured the follies of her father and two sisters. But Wentworth has returned, having made his name and fortune with the British navy, and it is now his turn to reject her.
Published in 1816, PERSUASION is the last novel Austen completed before her death a year later, and it is remarkable for a very autumnal tone. Unlike such Austen masterpieces as PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and EMMA, the herione is not a spirited, quickwitted young women on the verge of matrimony; the hero is not a dashing gentlemen of great estate; there is no verbal duel between the sexes. It is instead the story of a commonsense and pleasantly ordinary woman who considers herself past the likelihood of marriage--and who now wishes only to escape the emotional pain and humiliation visited upon her by a suitor from long ago.
While PERSUASION does not really stand along Austen's greatest works, it is nonetheless a very fine novel, a delicately wrought tale of opportunity lost and the passage of time, told in the uniquely piercing style so typical of the author--and while, of course, all eventually comes right for the romantically downtrodden Anne, it has a touch of melancholy quite unlike the tone of her other novels. Austen readers will find it a delight.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2007
Jane Austen's words come to life like notes on a page played by a musician. That most capable "musician" is Juliet Stevenson, well-known movie and stage actress with the acting chops of the Royal Shakespeare Company behind her. Her training and experience on the stage really shows as she creates individual and convincing voices for each of the characters and highlights the biting and keen observations of the narrator. I had read the book before listening to this audiorecording, and I was amazed at how much I missed. She really brings out the nuances of each character, fully exploiting every detail of each character (Anne's father's vanity, Elizabeth's self-absorption, Anne's self-consciousness and tiny glimpses of her emerging hope) and triumphs with the climactic passage toward the end where she brings Captain Wentworth's letter to life. You can hear the passion and fear in her voice as if it were Captain Wentworth himself. Treat yourself to a Jane Austen reading that brings the text to life.