🎤NOVEL: Persuasion by Jane Austen

NOVEL: Persuasion by Jane Austen, English, (1775-1817)

I have been a fervent Jane Austen fan since I was thirteen years old. By eighteen, I had read all of Austen’s novels, her juvenilia, published letters, and even some biographies. Then came the decades of rereading Jane’s works with relish, exploring the many prequels, sequels, and variations by modern authors, and watching every movie adaptation of Austen’s novels.

Persuasion is one of my three favorite Austen novels. Although I consider Emma her masterpiece for its maturity and complex plot, and love Pride & Prejudice for its sparkling wit and intelligence, Persuasion is, for me, Jane Austen’s most authentically romantic novel. With its theme of renewal, it is a story of second chances – love lost, and love regained: Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth’s love story is one for the ages.

PERSUASION’S PLOT: Eight years ago, our heroine, Anne Elliot, was persuaded by Lady Russell (a surrogate mother and family friend) to refuse the marriage proposal of Frederick Wentworth, a handsome, intelligent, but poor naval officer. Wentworth, angry and hurt, heads off to sea to fight in the Napoleonic Wars. Anne bitterly regrets her decision, realizing that she will never experience “such precious feelings” for anyone else. The novel begins when Wentworth–now a wealthy British Naval Captain–returns home.

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Due to his mounting debts, Anne’s father, Sir Walter Elliot, a vain, “foolish, and spendthrift Baronet,” must “retrench,” rent Kellynch Hall, and move his family to cheaper accommodations in Bath. And who are his new tenants?: Captain Wentworth’s sister, Mrs. Croft, and her husband, Admiral Croft. The proximity of Kellynch Hall and Uppercross Grange, where Anne temporarily resides with her married sister, Mary Musgrove, throws Anne and Frederick into each other’s company. However, Frederick openly flirts with Louisa Musgrove (Mary’s sister-in-law), makes an “ungallant” remark about Anne’s looks, is reserved, and–to all appearances–unfriendly towards Anne. Oh, Dear!

However, over time, Captain Wentworth discovers he is still in love with Anne. During an accident at Lyme, when Louisa injures her head in a fall, everyone panics, except Anne. When she takes command of the situation, Frederick realizes Anne’s worth. Once the Elliot family moves to Bath, another suitor vies for Anne’s hand in marriage. Our hero and heroine must endure more anxieties, vexations, and heartache before finally reuniting and declaring their constant love for each other. The catalyst? Captain Wentworth’s love letter to Anne. For me, this is the most tender and honest love letter in all literature.

Miss A. E.

I can listen no longer in silence.  I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach.  You pierce my soul.  I am half agony, half hope.  Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever.  I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death.  I have loved none but you.  Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.  You alone have brought me to Bath.  For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this?  Can you fail to have understood my wishes?  I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine.  I can hardly write.  I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others.  Too good, too excellent creature!  You do us justice, indeed.  You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men.  Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in

                                                       F. W.

I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible.  A word, a look will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.

By the time Austen finished writing Persuasion, she was 40 years old, terminally ill, had experienced true love at least once, and had refused an offer of marriage. She understood that successful, happy marriages consist of mutual respect and love, and–more importantly–a meeting of minds. In Persuasion, we gain an insight into Jane Austen’s heart–her personal longing for a relationship like that of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth’s.  Jane Austen died before the publication of Persuasion in 1818.

When I finished writing the above review, I placed my 1975 Folio copy of Persuasion back on my Austen shelf, nestling it safely between Emma and Jane Austen’s letters.  There it will stay until I read it again in another five years–perhaps sooner.😊

Did you enjoy this review and audio clip? I would value your opinion in the comment box.  Thank you.

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Sarah M. Fredericks © 2015

Carpe Librum!📚Seize the Book…and let the page-turning begin!

18 Comments

Filed under AUDIO🎤, England, NOVEL

18 responses to “🎤NOVEL: Persuasion by Jane Austen

  1. Marcus

    Sarah,
    I read this review some time ago – very enjoyable and thorough. What comes across more clearly than anything is your own personal love of this work. It is a masterpiece, no doubt, a second chance for both Anne and Frederick, which slowly builds towards Frederick’s passionate letter. Austen develops the other characters very well. We can picture nervy, unfulfilled Mary, and her long-suffering husband Charles, who is essentially a good provider and a good man. I do believe that Lady Russell means well, for all her allegedly misplaced persuasiveness. My opinion is that she is simply of an older generation, sticking rigidly to convention, propriety, class, inheritance, and so on. I think she genuinely believes she is acting out of duty towards Sir Elliot’s children. Frederick didn’t stand a chance that first time, being penniless, and without family or connections, or anything with a certain prospect! When he re-enters Anne’s life, we learn he has amassed a large fortune – worth millions today – and after his renewed realization of Anne’s worth, since the accident at Lyme Regis, we know that everything is heading in the right direction for them both. I suppose what we all want to see is Anne becoming more confident in what she feels and wants. Wentworth’s letter is bursting with ‘it’s now or never’, and it is powerful in bringing the two together to renew their engagement. You sense that they will always have a mutual respect for each other.
    Thanks for the audio too Sarah – very good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, Marcus. I think your assessment is correct, with regard to Lady Russell. She has always been closer to Anne than to the other two sisters, and it is no surprise that she would persuade Anne to refuse Frederick’s hand in marriage, regardless of his prospects, especially during a war. By the end of the novel, Anne assures Frederick that he will grow to love Lady Russell as much as she does. Of course, he has to forgive Lady R. first for interfering with his earlier marriage plans! In the words of Jane Austen:

      “Who can be in doubt of what followed? When any two young people take it into their heads to marry, they are pretty sure by perseverence to carry their point, be they ever so poor, or ever so imprudent….”

      Sarah

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  2. Carl

    Nice review, Sarah! I prefer the Persuasion story more than the other Austen novels. What I enjoy most about Persuasion is the supporting characters and their real-to-life characteristics. Anybody can appreciate Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot, but I enjoy reading of Mr. Elliot’s vanity, Anne’s sister Mary and her selfish behavior, and the loyalty of Captains Benwick and Harville. Very real to life.

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    • I have to agree with you Carl: Persuasion is also one of my favorite Austen novels. It is sad to think that it was her last one, published by her brother after she died. It is also true that she was not totally happy with the novel and wanted to edit it. Alas! Jane never got the opportunity to do so. Like you, I love some of the “supporting cast.” Who would not laugh at Sir Walter Elliot’s vanity (and his mumerous mirrors at Kellynch Hall), Mary’s continuous hypochondria (although, she never seemed to lose her appetite), or the shenanigans of young Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Clay?
      Sarah

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  3. Yvonne

    I really enjoyed reading your review Sarah, and the comments by the other posters. I love Persuasion. How I envy people who have never read it. I would give almost anything for the pleasure of reading it again for the first time. The same is true of Pride and Prejudice; I would love to pick that up and read it with fresh eyes. I remember well how I felt when I discovered all that Darcy had done for Elizabeth’s family, without any expectations of reward, or even acknowledgement. And Wentworth’s letter is such a beautiful piece of writing. I read each one of Austen’s novels at least yearly, sometimes more often. I never tire of them.

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    • Dear Yvonne,
      Thank you for your kind comment. I am glad you enjoyed my Persuasion review. Like you, I periodically delve into Jane Austen’s novels – usually every five years – and enjoy them afresh. How can I not? Austen’s novels sparkle with her own style of wit and wisdom.
      Sarah

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  4. Hayley

    Believe it or not, even though most Janeites prefer PRIDE AND PREJUDICE far above any of the other novels, PERSUASION is my favorite. How many times do we get a second chance in this life? It is a lovely story, but as you say, definitely not a fairy tale. I often imagine the righteous indignation that Miss Austen would express, were she alive today, to see and hear herself described as a “romance novelist.” As you know, Sarah, she greatly prided herself on her wit and sharp social commentary. I enjoyed your reading immensely. Well done, you!

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    • Thank you Hayley. You are very kind! Yes…Miss Austen would be indignant, indeed – and shocked – to be considered a “romance” novelist. Although romance is very evident in her stories, I always considered her as a social commentator and satirist like Oscar Wilde, Edith Wharton, and Jonathan Swift.
      Sarah

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  5. Persuasion is, also my favorite. The part you recited is my absolute favorite part of the book! You have a beautiful voice too. I think this is my favorite Austen because I can relate in some ways with Anne – only in so much as I feel taken for granted a bit – and my mother sort of reminds me of Sir Walter. Lol
    I enjoyed reading your review! It has also inspired me to read Persuasion again! I have this cute half size set of the Austen books and they are really the only print books I read in these days of the EBook.
    Thank you!

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    • Dear Ardent Reader,
      I am happy you enjoyed this particular audio excerpt. Like you, I have some “half size” Austens. However, I could only find Pride & Prejudice, Emma, and Sense & Sensibility. I am missing the other three. I have a nice Folio version (hardback) of every novel and Jane Austen’s juvinilia; I do not take these out of the house (they are very worn but much loved😊). Then I have a paperback version of her works that I can stuff in my pocket at a moment’s notice. What a joy! Enjoy Persuasion again.
      Sarah

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  6. sue fredericks

    Sarah, thanks for the recommendation. I haven’t read this book before, so it’s time to download it on my Kindle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sue,
      I know you’re the Kindle Queen! Call me old-fashioned, but I still prefer reading from a book, feeling the weight of it in my hands, touching the paper, and smelling the mustiness.

      I’m delighted you enjoyed my review. You mentioned in a recent email that you have just reread P & P and Northanger Abbey but have not read Persuasion. You will love it Sue😊! Let me know what you think.
      Sarah

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  7. Persuasion was the first Jane Austen novel I ever read, and it’s still my favorite. Your reading is very good, indeed! I have a CD of Helena Bonham Carter reading excerpts from Austen, and she does the letter also (plus, she makes for a grand Lady Catherine as well!).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Lady T,
      I am delighted you enjoyed my audio recording. I have not heard any other versions: I wanted to interpret the passage myself (especially the letter). I am sure Helena Bonham Carter does a wonderful job. I particularly like her acting in Howard’s End and Hamlet. I am glad Persuasion is your favorite Austen novel😊.
      Sarah

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  8. Richard

    The modern romcom probably owes much, if not everything, to Jane Austen. How many movies have boy meets girl, girl detests boy…or vice versa…something happens that proves boy’s or girl’s worth, and wedding bells ring? Variations on the theme – yes – but you get my drift. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the public have an insatiable appetite for a romance, even skewed romance a la “Mr Grey” recently. What it does highlight is the paucity of original ideas since the 19th century re romance. Anne Elliot is a keeper. She proves her mettle and resourcefulness when an accident suddenly strikes in Lyme. She soars above the superficial and shows a natural, inner calm. Her heart might be breaking, but that can wait. She gets our vote and, we want her to be happy. All around take her for granted and dismiss her as an unfortunate necessity. Why do we shout for her from the sidelines? It is through Austen’s mastery that we see Anne’s internal life as a foil to all her contemporaries’ external superficiality. She is real and vital – not a preening booby. Wentworth knows it and is ultimately glad of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Richard,
      Thank you for your wonderful insights on Miss Anne Elliot, one of my favorite Austen heroines. You are right – she deserves a happy ending. However, Jane Austen does give us a reality check in the last chapter. She tells us that the onset of another war would dim Anne’s sunshine. Although her dear Captain Wentworth was “paid off,” perhaps he might be called up again to serve on the high seas in another frigate “not fit for service” (like the Laconia). Interestingly enough, this week is the 200th anniversary of Waterloo – the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
      Sarah

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  9. Sarah, P&P is the only Austen novel I’ve read, but your review has awoken my interest in the others. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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