Persuasion by Jane Austen
My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love? [summary from Goodreads]
When I discovered this classic:
I think I'd always been vaguely aware of it as my mum is quite a big Jane Austen fan and we've always had her books in the house. However I never really knew what it was about and didn't have a huge desire to read it until not very long ago.
Why I chose to read it:
I went to see a performance of Persuasion as a play at my local theatre with my mum before Christmas, I didn't really have very high expectations for it, it was just something to do. I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed it! There were only four actors playing all the parts and this was done so well, I loved the story and it was actually very funny. I decided after this that I needed to read the book and I received this beautiful edition for Christmas.
What makes it a classic?
I think that when people think of classics, Jane Austen is probably one of the first authors that comes to mind. She wrote about __ society with such a wry wit and most importantly gave women a voice in her work in a way that other writers of that period did not. Her heroines are usually intelligent, witty, resilient women and Anne Elliot, the protagonist of Persuasion, is no exception. It is not only one of the greatest and most honest romances in literature but it is also a clever commentary on family, friendship and social politics.
What I thought of this classic:
When I decided to pick up Persuasion, I expected to appreciate it as a great novel but I also expected to perhaps find it a bit of a chore to read (I think that's what puts people off classics in general, I know I should know better!). I didn't expect to be completely immersed in the story and not be able to put it down. I found it totally absorbing and absolutely loved it. Anne Elliot is now one of my favourite literary protagonists for her intelligence, grace and maturity. She is kind, funny, incredibly perceptive and isn't afraid to make her opinions known. In one of my favourite quotes from the novel she says of representations of women in literature:
"Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.”
I really really enjoyed the romantic plotline, as it begins pre-page one there is a depth to it which provides a lot of feelings and tension which is handled excellently within the narrative.
Will it stay a classic?
I believe that this is one of Jane Austen's most important novels, it being her last completed novel before she died at the age of 41. It is considered to be her most mature and realistic love story and I strongly believe that it will remain a popular classic for as long as books exist.
Who I would recommend it to:
Obviously anyone who has read any Jane Austen previously, a lot of people have read Pride and Prejudice so I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed that, you might find that you enjoy this more! I think I might actually prefer this, but only a re-read of Pride and Prejudice will decide that.
Also I'd recommend this to anyone who is a fan of romantic fiction and anyone who enjoys character-driven novels.
The 2015 Classics Challenge is hosted by Stacey of Pretty Books and you can find out more about it here.
Have you read Persuasion? What did you think?