‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen is right on top of my ‘Would definitely recommend’ list. In my opinion, this is one of Austen’s under-rated works, which is a pity, since it is a great book. While much space and time has been time and again devoted to an analysis of her other books, most notably ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Emma’, ‘Persuasion’, sadly, often remains neglected. This is Austen’s last work and was written in a race against failing health.
While I do agree that unlike her earlier novels, ‘Persuasion’ might seem to lack the literary finesse we have come to expect from Austen, it nevertheless stands out on its own and merits its place among the best literary works of all-time.
It follows the story of Anne Elliott, a sensitive and sensible young lady in her late twenties. However, she is always overlooked by her father and elder sister, who have scant regard to her feelings and comfort. Her only solace in life is her friendship with her late mother’s good friend, Lady Russell. Life is idyllic and devoid of surprises or reasons for excitement. But when the family is forced to quit their house due to her father, Sir Walter Elliott’s financial carelessness, it sets into motion an interesting chain of events.
The house is rented out to recently retired Admiral Croft and his wife. It so happens that the Admiral’s brother-in-law is none other than Captain Wentworth, Anne’s old flame. Seven years ago, they had courted briefly but Anne had broken off her engagement to him since Lady Russell and her father didn’t approve of the young man, owing to his inferior social standing. Meanwhile, Anne decides to spend a few days with her younger sister at Uppercross Cottage before joining her father and sister at their new lodgings in Bath. Here, the Captain and she end up being thrown among mutual acquaintances, forced to see each other and socialize everyday. Add to this the Musgrove sisters, both of whom seem intent on capturing the Captain’s heart and Anne herself, whose feelings for the Captain remain unresolved and there you have it.
Constancy is a virtue that is often under-valued in people. Austen throws light on this fact very beautifully and the novel is a sheer delight to read. Those who have read her other works might feel this book is devoid of the intricate detailing that goes into an Austen novel.
The trademark one-liner character introductions are very much as effective as those in her earlier ones. Sample this-
“Anne, with an elegance of mind and sweetness of character, which must have placed her high with any people of real understanding, was nobody with either father or sister: her word had no weight, her convenience was always to give way; she was only Anne.”
And Anne! Oh how I love her! She is undoubtedly, THE best heroine Austen has ever created and one can’t help but adore her as the novel progresses. By the end, you’re prone to think her character as perfection itself. The following line gives you an idea of just how sensible she is-
“She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped.”
There have been two film adaptations of the book-one in 1995 and the other is a television film adaptation released in 2003. The 1995 version is better, in my opinion, since it stays closer to the book.
Here’s a link to read the ebook-