Persuasion by Jane Austen

Book: Persuasion (A Modern Library E-Book)
Author: Jane Austen
Publisher: Random House
Originally published: 1818
Source: Borrowed ebook from library
Summary from Goodreads: Called a ‘perfect novel’ by Harold Bloom, Persuasion was written while Jane Austen was in failing health. She died soon after its completion, and it was published in an edition with Northanger Abbey in 1818. 

In the novel, Anne Elliot, the heroine Austen called ‘almost too good for me,’ has let herself be persuaded not to marry Frederick Wentworth, a fine and attractive man without means. Eight years later, Captain Wentworth returns from the Napoleonic Wars with a triumphant naval career behind him, a substantial fortune to his name, and an eagerness to wed. Austen explores the complexities of human relationships as they change over time. ‘She is a prose Shakespeare,’ Thomas Macaulay wrote of Austen in 1842. ‘She has given us a multitude of characters, all, in a certain sense, commonplace. Yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from each other as if they were the most eccentric of human beings.’

Persuasion is the last work of one of the greatest of novelists, the end of a quiet career pursued in anonymity in rural England that produced novels which continue to give pleasure to millions of readers throughout the world.

I think this is my first official, completed Austen book. I’ve seen my fair share of the movies, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one from start to finish until now. Tragic, no? I remedied this thanks to the Austen in August event hosted by Roof Beam Reader. It’s always difficult for me to read classics unless I have a good reason to do so, and blog events are a great motivator. 

I knew nothing about Persuasion prior to this event, but all of the participants and other bloggers (Ruby!) commenting that it was their favorite Austen made me wonder what all of the fuss was about. I mean…beating the alliterative P and S titles? It must be pretty good. I had it loaded on my Kindle before August even started.

The beginning was a bit slow. I confess to re-reading large chunks of the first chapters while getting lulled to sleep by my morning commute. Jane is not the person to get me fired up in the morning, I guess. I did very much like Anne, however, and as long as she wasn’t spending time with her horrible father and older sister, things perked up.

Mrs. Charles Musgrove…

Anne’s younger sister, Mary, is a total gas. Can I say that? Is “hoot” better? No? Okay, well, she’s hilarious then. Obnoxious and insufferable, but still fun because for the most part she’s harmless. She has an ego the size of Jupiter and feels entitled to more than she is probably due. Anne manages her fairly well, and Mary’s poor husband Charles certainly tries, but I love Mary’s histrionic style and need to be in the middle of everything.

Anne spends a large portion of the beginning of this tale at Mary’s house, where she gets pulled into the extended Musgrove family (Mary’s in-laws). Anne is a welcome addition, and much preferred over Mary to Charles’ sisters, Louisa and Henrietta, as well as pretty much anyone who has ever met Mary. Poor Mary. For those that don’t know, Anne’s family is living beyond their means, so they set off to Bath and rent their house to the Crofts.

Oh Captain, my Captain…

The important part of this is that Mrs. Croft’s brother is the good Captain Wentworth, Anne’s heartbroken former love. They were set to be married until Anne’s good family friend (and stand-in for her deceased mother) Lady Russell persuaded her that it was a poor match. Then Wentworth goes off to the navy and makes a bazillion dollars and shows up to visit his sister eight years later. You can practically see him and Anne awkwardly shuffling their feet while being forced into the same rooms again after all this time.

Over the course of the book, Wentworth tries to find a new bride out of one of the Musgrove girls, Anne joins her father and sister in Bath, and Wentworth keeps popping up on the scene because of their many mutual friends. He does incredibly nice things and is generally thoughtful and kind and still a big dreamboat as far as Anne is concerned. She starts to think that maybe she should follow her heart after all.

True love at last…

I flew through the last half of this book. I was dying to know when they would get together (because they have to get together!!) and how. There are all of these obstacles (Mr. Elliot, Louisa, different locations) and Anne seems uncertain about the Captain’s feelings, so you’re never really sure if they’ll work things out. By the time Wentworth finally slips Anne a secret love note, my heart was pounding in my chest and upon reading his sweet and poetic words I promptly shed a tear. 


Wentworth does such a good job hiding his feelings that I felt immense relief when Anne gets that letter. It’s the final confirmation after an entire novel of events that he does, in fact, love her despite everything. Up until that point, we see him courting Louisa and avoiding Anne and we’re stuck wondering “Does he or doesn’t he?” But he DOES! Yes! The romance between these two sells the story alone, but the funny social antics on display and the surprising twists and turns of the plot make this a thoroughly enjoyable read. I loved it. 

Have you read Persuasion? What did you think of Mary Musgrove? Were you convinced Wentworth was in love with Anne all along? 






Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

22 thoughts on “Persuasion by Jane Austen

  1. I don’t remember liking Mary as much as you did but I of course I swooned over Wentworth’s letter, so delicious! I still prefer P&P’s lightness at this time but I know that might change as I get older.

  2. *stretches arms, cracks knuckles*

    Mary cracks my s*** up. She has NO idea that she’s Charles’ (and Louisa and Henrietta’s) second choice as his bride and, while you’re right that her ego is enormous, she’s also the kind of person that whines if she so much as suspects that she might be left out. I also love Anne’s dad–his pomposity reminds me a bit of Mr. Collins, though I admit that he’s a bit more malicious and less ridiculous. And the bits when he and Anne’s sister get all worked up about going to meet the dowager–I think vicountess–make me chuckle.

    BUT. Persuasion isn’t as funny as P&P, and not as angsty as S&S. It’s an understated novel, with an understated heroine. Anne impresses me because she’s so steadfast. People love Elizabeth Bennet and want to be her BFF, but for me, it’s Anne. With Eliza Bennet, I would feel constantly less than–not as smart, or witty or whatever. Elizabeth would be an awesome companion for a time–Anne would be a friend for life.

    Regarding the Anne/Wentworth romance, it’s been so long since I read it for the first time that I can’t remember if I ever thought Wentworth wasn’t still carrying a torch for Anne. I I think all the bits where Wentworth shows the readers that he cares about Anne and she has no idea are delicious, and have always stirred me as much as The Letter. Also, one thing that Persuasion adapters consistently fail to understand is that Anne only allowed herself to be persuaded to dismiss Wentworth because she was convinced it was for his own good. That was the argument that Lady Russel used that was ultimately successful on Anne. I think, often, people get that part of Persuasion mixed up with P&P, and assume it had to do with pride. But Anne is not a prideful character. Since her mother’s death, all she’s ever had to do is set her pride aside for the sake of her family. What saves her is her realization that she deserves to grab happiness, too.

    • Yes! Look at that comment! I love it.

      I didn’t really care for Anne’s dad. He was pompous and also fairly harmless (unless you count that whole driving-his-family-into-debt thing), but he just wasn’t very entertaining.

      I think you are on to something with Anne vs. Elizabeth. Anne is sweet and mild and GOOD, but she can also throw out some snark from time to time. She would be an excellent bestie.

      I think Anne does think Wentworth is in to her – or at least hopes. She ponders whether he put her in the carriage just because he’s nice or if it’s something more. I was a bit hesitant to get my hopes up on her behalf, if only because I felt so bad for his broken heart and didn’t know how he could ever recover.

      Yes, you make a very important point. Anne did what she thought was best for him, and she also admits that Lady Russell only advised her as a good parental figure should. Nothing was done out of malice – it’s just one of those things where you think you’re doing the right thing and it doesn’t quite end up that way. At least in this book they were able to sort it all out. There are tons of times where it all ends in heartbreak for good. I loved that the resolution of the book wasn’t because of some big misunderstanding, but because they were soul mates who managed to find each other under better circumstances in order to make the marriage happen. Everyone wins!

      Thanks for the great comments everyone!

      • I am in the minority in the world because I do NOT like Elizabeth Bennett at all. So I’m definitely Team Anne if it came down to a bestie match between the two of them. But, much as I like her, Anne is so GOOD. I’d feel very mean and evil next to her selfless meek goodness.

      • That’s true. And she also wouldn’t be the kind of friend with whom you could laugh until cry. I could imagine taking great comfort in being with Anne. Does that make me one of the people who takes advantage of her?

      • You are such an advantage-taker! Just kidding.

        I do like the Anne v. Elizabeth debate idea. I started P&P this week and I think I’m already liking Elizabeth more.

  3. Oh this is my favorite Austen as well! I LOVE that it is a novel about characters that had a previous relationship, BUT there are no flashbacks. I dislike flashbacks (tho I will admit that occasionally they are done well). I LOVE that it is romantic without the characters kissing or spending much time together throughout the course of the book. It’s all so subtle, which is one of my favorite ways to write a love story. Although I haven’t read this recently, I just finished For Darkness Shows the Stars, which is a pretty faithful retelling – for being set in a futuristic world. And it made me remember why I love this story. Wentworth – definitely swoon and sigh. I don’t remember whether I thought he was in love with her when I first read this (I probably assumed so). But I love that looking back you can see how he still cared for Anne, despite the fact that he was angry and hurt over the fact that she refused him.

    • AGREED on the flashbacks. I think it’s brilliant that we get a picture of how much they cared for each other just by how they interact now.

      I’d like to read FDSTS soon since I have this fresh in my brain. Maybe I’ll grab it from the library. Or is it worth a purchase? I’ve seen mixed reviews.

      And subtle romance is the best kind, for sure. 🙂

  4. I’m so glad you liked this book! I do love Mary, too. Jane Austen’s Mary-like characters are probably my favorite parts of all her books. They’re just so over the top and unwittingly hilarious. They’re twits, but in a good natured way.

    I was definitely wondering if Wentworth was going to make a move for Anne or if he was going to tell her, Sorry lady, you snooze you lose! I felt kind of bad for him and I wouldn’t have blamed him if he decided to spurn her. But, the romantic in me is glad he didn’t. Plus, it’s not like Anne turned him down because she didn’t love him. She turned him down because she was a pushover, which is forgivable because she finally (sort of) grows a spine and learns to live for herself. I like what Ruby said about Anne. She said it better and nicer than I am 😛

    • Nobody writes an annoyingly endearing character the way Jane does. I love all of those obnoxious characters like Mary and Mrs. Jennings. I DID NOT, however, care for any of the Thorpes in Northanger Abbey. I almost threw my book across the room I was so angry with them.

    • I know! Anne is incredibly lucky that she got a second chance with Wentworth. But I think part of the message of the book is about listening to yourself first. So, Anne growing a spine wasn’t so much the important part, as her finally pushing all the other opinions out of her head and making decisions on her own, for herself.

      • I think that’s more what I mean about “growing a spine.” She let other people influence her too much and she worried over their opinions. I liked seeing her finally decide to do what SHE wanted and to listen to her own heart.

        I don’t remembering loving the Thorpes much either. They lacked the charm her other awful characters had. You should read Lady Susan, Logan.

  5. Persuasion is one of my least favorite Jane books BUT I still love it! I think if she was alive now I would pretty much stalk Jane and demand she write more/faster!

    I was not convinced that Wentworth was in love with Anne but I think that added to the push/pull of the story. 🙂

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