Book Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen
Jane Austen is a treasure. Most people are familiar with Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. My favorite Austen is P&P, but Persuasion is my second favorite. I had not read it in a few years, and last year, my wonderful in-laws gifted me the Austen Penguin Classics clothbound set. Swoon. Persuasion was published by Austen’s brother after she died. This is another classic by Austen, mirroring something from Austen’s own life. She once persuaded her niece to not marry a certain young man, like Lady Russell did to Anne.
Persuasion tells the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth. Anne and Wentworth meet and fall in love when she is 19. Anne is the middle daughter of Baronet Sir Walter Elliot, while Wentworth is an up and coming Naval officer. However, because Wentworth is a commoner with no fortune, Anne’s godmother Lady Russell persuaded Anne not to accept Wentworth’s proposal. Fast forward eight years, Wentworth is now a Captain in the Royal Navy, and Anne is still unmarried.
When Anne's father is forced to rent the Elliot home, he and the oldest Elliot daughter, Elizabeth, move to Bath for a while. The new tenants at Kellynch Hall are Admiral Croft and his wife, and Mrs. Croft happens to be Wentworth’s older sister. So after eight years, Wentworth and Anne reunite. But it won't be easy for the two of them; Anne is nervous around him, and he seems to be perfectly content to spend time with the Musgrove sisters.
I was probably a junior in high school the first time I read Persuasion. I remember thinking how anyone could get married or engaged at 19, when Anne is due to accept Wentworth's first proposal. Obviously, it was a different time, and people did not live as long, but it still was such a foreign concept to me. Now on my third reading of Persuasion, I am 27, the same age as Anne, who is considered almost an old maid. I am married, but I don't feel all that old. Thinking back to how I was at 19 and what I wanted, I truly don't think there is anything that I wanted then that I would still want now (except for the obvious dream of becoming Kathleen Kelly, sigh). It just goes to show you how strong your first (and true) love really is. Anne and Wentworth both never got over each other, and even after almost a decade, they still only want each other.
Possible unpopular opinion alert: I occasionally find myself preferring Captain Wentworth over Mr. Darcy. Wentworth never forgets Anne, and you know, is actually pretty kind to her despite their history, unlike Darcy. Mr. Darcy may be the most famous Austen love interest (and rightfully so; hello Colin Firth), but when it comes down to it, Wentworth actually talks to Anne and could never stir up all that pent-up aggression like Darcy incites in Elizabeth.
Ultimately, Persuasion is a story about first love and second chances. It is difficult to write about any of Jane Austen's books with a completely nuanced look at her writing, since she has been studied for hundreds of years. (Side note, how great would it be to be a scholar on all things Jane Austen? Sign me up!) But hopefully, I did this justice. Persuasion is one of my all-time favorites, so it is hard for me to find words to really describe how I feel about it. 5 stars always!
Let me know what you think about Jane Austen, Persuasion, and who you would pick between Wentworth and Darcy.
Also, please note my new favorite t-shirt.