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Persuasion
By Jane Austen

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Persuasion
By Jane Austen
G. K. Hall Large Print and Chivers Press
ISBN: 0-7862-4624-3
Genre: English Literature

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - January 27, 2003

Anne Elliot, at twenty-seven, was the oldest heroine to grace a novel by Jane Austen. Not surprisingly, Persuasion has a more mature overtone than her other works, although the heroine just as 'silly' as the heroines in her other books. Anne was engaged to be married to Frederick Wentworth, a young naval officer. However she allowed a close friend to convince her that Wentworth was not good enough, nor rich enough for her. So she broke off the engagement.

Years pass, during which time Anne's family falls on hard times. Against her will, Anne is becoming resigned to being a spinster for the rest of her life. Suddenly her life is upended when Wentworth returns home, wealthy and as handsome as ever.

After breaking off the engagement, Anne had been despondent, but those feelings faded. It is only after Wentworth returns that she realizes that she still loves him. But what chance is there now of him wanting her? By breaking the engagement she has wounded him deeply, and shamed him before his friends and family. Has he forgiven her? Even if he has, it has been eight years, and for all Anne knows he could already be married! To make the situation more ironic, Anne turned Wentworth down because he was poor and was not her social equal. Now their roles are reversed, he has risen up the social ladder while she has fallen.

This book was first published in 1818, and to many modern readers the story might seem a bit tedious - there are no fast paced action scenes, romantic interludes, or hair-raising adventures. Rather it is a leisurely journey that gives the reader an intimate look into the lives of Anne and Wentworth. By extension, the reader also gets a look at the everyday lives of the English gentry during the early years of the 1800's. Throughout you will be questioning whether Anne and Wentworth will ever come to realize that they are both in love with each other. This is a fact that they could both have easily discovered, if they had only put their pride aside and simply and honestly talked to each other. However, if they had, there would have been no point in Austen writing this engaging story.

Published posthumously in 1818, Persuasion is the last complete novel that Jane Austen wrote. Her 'last' novel The Watsons was never completed, although it too was published after her death. Austen (1775-1817) was the daughter of a country parson, and like her characters, she often made the pilgrimage to the city of Bath. After her father's retirement, Austen and her family settled in Bath for a short time. Unlike her heroines, Austen never married.

Austen's writing is eloquent and offers a unique glimpse at the genteel side of country life. Her writing is biased, however, in that she ignores the poverty and the civil unrest that was rife in England during her lifetime. Nonetheless, her books give readers a fascinating glimpse at a bygone age.


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