It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person interested in Jane Austen will read Pride & Prejudice. Not that I blame them, P&P is great. Everybody loves Darcy.
But, in my opinion, it’s not the best.
Instead, let’s look at Persuasion, Austen’s last novel:
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?
It’s the definition of “oldie but a goodie”, and I’m not just busting it out because I’m behind on NaNoWriMo and didn’t have time to read this week, but because I think it’s criminally underrated.
So let’s get into it.
What Intrigued Me: I love Austen. I read P&P when I was twelve and I was hooked. But I didn’t read Persuasion until I was 23. Maybe it’s because, compared to her other novels, it’s so much smaller. It’s definitely her quietest novel. And while that was what made me take so long to read it, it’s also what eventually drew me to it.
What Hooked Me: I love Anne Elliot. She is, in my opinion, the most relatable Austen heroine. She doesn’t always have a quick quip like Lizzy, she’s not as confident as Emma, not as self-sacrificing as Elinor, not as steadfast as Fanny, and not as silly as Cathy. She gets confused by what she thinks is right, she makes mistakes and has regrets. She’s not just surrounded by flawed people and making clever observations. She owns up to her own flaws. She recognizes that everyone is human. And that makes her very likable.
What Made Me Fall In Love: Memorize this: “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.”
I honestly don’t think there has ever been anything more romantic.
Persuasion has been available to read for hundreds of years. Pick up a copy to at your local bookstore, or even better, borrow a well-loved copy from your local public library.