Persuasion by Jane Austen
Coming in at number #38 on the BBC Big Read List is Persuasion written by Jane Austen. This was our pick for the Village Book group discussion at the start of September and is also my lovely mother-in-law's favourite Jane Austen novel. As you can imagine, I was very much looking forward to reading this.
In other news, I am calling Autumn. This will be up on the blog on Thursday. At the time of writing, we are in a mini-heatwave, but I am receiving ALL the promotions for pumpkin style drinks and have been invited to visit a pumpkin farm. I cannot ignore these signs forever.
At 27, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they encounter each other is movingly told in Jane Austen's last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.
I first read this novel years ago, and remember relatively little about it. This time the reading was much better, savoured and slower. I got so much from this novel.
For a bit of context, the publication of this novel was overseen by Jane Austen's brother, as sadly Jane Austen had passed away the year before it came out. It is also quite autobiographical as Jane was put in a similar position to Lady Russell and had to advise her niece about marriage to a man without fortune. One does wonder if Jane agonised over her advice and this maybe played out in the book.
But this novel is excellent. Anne Elliot is one of Austen's brilliant characters - beautiful, kind and sensible. Depended on by her family, she embodies steadiness and wisdom, but also wit. There are many delightful moments with her family and some of the more exaggerated characters within the book.
But dear reader, the passion! This felt like a novel about longing and regret. Seeing Captain Wentworth again and the joy he brings to Anne's heart whilst knowing she rejected him...well it is heartrending. And then we have the small glances, spending more time together and agonies when apart. This felt more 3 dimensional, then some of her earlier writings.
As a piece of fiction it is a fascinating look at early 19th Century life, the financial problems facing the gentry, the balls, the promenades. It raises the curtain beautifully on what life was like for our heroine.
I've really enjoyed this novel again, so much more than the first time. And I think will be up there for me too as one of my favourite Austen's.