I have just finished reading another Jane Austen book that was left-over from my Austen August month.
Persuasion is the last novel fully completed by Jane Austen before her death, however it was posthumously published six months after her death. The book was actually named by her brother, Henry. There is still no known record of Jane Austen intended to call her novel though many have speculated The Elliots.
The novel centres primarily around Anne Elliot who, along with her family, are moving house in order to save money after the extortionate expenses of her spendthrift father. The wife of the Admiral who rents the house is actually the sister of a man called Captain Wentworth. Anne Elliot was previously engaged to Captain Wentworth, yet she refused him on the advice of an old family-friend (Lady Russell). As this is a Jane Austen novel, social rank and status are huge themes throughout the story and one of the primary reasons that Lady Russell persuades Anne to turn Captain Wentworth down is because of his low rank. Upon his return to the town, Captain Wentworth is a changed man after winning a huge amount of money for his admirable naval work. It is ironic that Captain Wentworth is now held at such high regard when, at the time of writing, the Navy was admired due to its role in wars with France and America and for upholding the British Empire. This is one of the reasons why I love Jane Austen; everything just fits perfectly and she is an amazing observer of society.
The story is full of awkward encounters, love triangles and expertly illustrates the pressure and persuasion that befalls young women of her time. I have heard that Jane Austen’s inspiration for writing Persuasion was due to her guilt of advising her niece to reject a suitor on the basis of social status. Jane Austen explores this idea and moral conundrum of persuasion amazingly in her novel. In a way, many scholars have discussed whether, whilst writing this, Jane Austen knew she was dying and used Persuasion as a way to explore what she had done to her niece and as a way to repent for her mistakes. She organised the book to be published a year after it was finished. Was this so she didn’t have to view the reception and what people may think of her?
Despite this rather sombre look at the book, it is one of my Jane Austen’s most mature books, all about love and second-chances. This is a strong contender for my favourite Jane Austen book! I would give this book 4.5 stars out of 5.
Have you read Persuasion? What are your thoughts?