I have now read five of Austen's six novels. Persuasion seems to me to be the most outright romantic of those I've read, meaning that while the entire trajectory of the plot, like all of Austen's novels, was to bring the designated couple together in the end for their Happily Ever After, there wasn't a lot else to it.
Anne Elliot, a single woman who has "lost her bloom" at the ripe old age of 27 (!) has a vain, foolish father and a couple of vain and selfish sisters, but somehow has herself grown up to be wise, discerning, self-willed, and charitable. She's definitely one of Austen's most likeable heroines.
Seven years ago, she had an offer of marriage from a young man named Frederick Wentworth. Despite their being very much in love, Anne was persuaded against the marriage (hence the title) by a family friend and substitute mother figure, Lady Russell. F.W. went off heartbroken, joined the Navy, and came back rich.
Anne, of course, is still in love with Captain Wentworth. Captain Wentworth is still in love with Anne. Will these two star-crossed lovers somehow manage to get together again?
(It's Austen. Duh.)
This was Austen's final work, and apparently it's many peoples' favorite Austen. I cannot say it was mine. The simple nature of the love story left few surprises, and while of course there are the usual misunderstandings, false "entanglements," misapprehensions about who's in love with whom and who's going to get married, etc., these are all very obvious red herrings to the reader, as Austen practically spells out everyone's true motive from the beginning.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy it - I always enjoy Austen. But Persuasion was lacking the thing that made Pride & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Emma so delightful: humor.
That's not to say there was no humor at all (setting it above Mansfield Park, in my estimation). Anne Elliot's father, Sir Walter, is a perfectly silly man who's amusing because he takes himself so very seriously.
But the humor is biting; Sir Walter doesn't have any amusing lines, he just goes around sniffing at those beneath him, acting vain and prideful in the face of financial ruin, and generally being an aristocratic fop with zero self-awareness. Likewise, Anne's sisters and her father spend the latter half of the book kissing up to some distant noble cousins, the Dalrymples, who themselves are dull and uninteresting and only important because they've got blue blood, and thereafter making a ridiculous fuss name-dropping their connection.
So, the foibles of Anne's family are somewhat amusing in an ironic way, and there are other quotable lines, but it's basically a story about one sensible, good-hearted woman in imminent danger of spinsterhood getting properly married despite her spendthrift father and superficial, self-centered sisters.
Given Austen's own sad fate as an unmarried woman who died at 41, one cannot help suspecting a certain amount of self-identification with this heroine more than any other.
The themes of the novel are persuasion (when it's good to allow yourself to be persuaded by others, and when it's not) and a bit of proto-feminism (maybe that's just my reading of it) as Anne and Captain Harville argue over whether men or women feel more deeply and more constantly.
""But let me observe that all histories are against you--all stories, prose and verse. If I had such a memory as Benwick, I could bring you fifty quotations in a moment on my side the argument, and I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men."
"Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything."
Persuasion has all the usual Austen virtues - fine prose, wittiness, and sharp social criticism - and an assortment of characters just large enough to make for an interesting cast, with heroes and villains in the romance wars. But the simplicity of its plot and the missing humor element can't make this one my favorite.
The gentle nature of Persuasion is one of my favorite of Austen's works. I found the narrator to be mature but also a bit boring, lacking the vocal range to do all the different voices in a convincing manner. It very much felt like this was being read to me rather than being performed.
Capt Harville's and Anne's discussion about the fickleness of women.
Yes, she differentiates the characters, but her reading style is not suitable to the story. Ms Stevenson's voice would be good for reading a time table, but both her voice and her intonation are too harsh for long-term listening. Also, Jane Austen's writing style includes long sentences, and Juliet Stevenson's style is making it hard work to listen to them.
No, too long.
I wouldn't go out of my way for books narrated by Julia Stevenson.
I've been reading all the classics and Audible makes this very easy to do with unabridged editions of each. Along with Amazon syncing between the eBook and audio book. Which enables me to read the book when I can listen to it. This is my fourth Jane Austin book in a row. The others were either read or read/listened to. I see a lot of similarities between the events in this book to how some people live their lives today. I had a friend actually convinced the same way Ann was to not marry someone. This supports the theory that everything happens in cycles. Unlike some of authors book this time the 'beautiful' woman or main character doesn't marry the ugliest man described in the book. I won't spoil it for you. I will say that the narrator was perfect for this story. I have four more books of Jane's to go before I've gotten through them all. I find it enjoyable learning about how people saw that era of time and how some people want to go back to it. It's too bad that the author is no longer with us because she could teach a lot to the screen writers in Hollywood and a lot of the new authors righting books. These new writers don't know how to balance a book properly.
As I noted in the title, Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel. Anne Elliott is a believable, normal character whose concerns and frustrations don't seem dated in the least, even when they are shaped by outdated (I hope) notions of what it means to be a woman.
Juliet Stevenson has a beautiful voice, and her nuanced reading enhanced my experience of the book. This is a favorite book and I usually reread it every year. I enjoyed this version so much that immediately after finishing I listened to it a second time.
Look no further than Juliet Stevenson. If you already like Jane Austen, you will enjoy her even more, and if you're not sure about Jane Austen, Juliet Stevenson will make you a fan. Her delivery is subtle, never over-acted, and she really gets Jane's dry humor and irony. Wonderful!
Juliet Stevenson has a pleasant voice and brings the characters to life in such an amazing manner, she is a true pleasure to listen to!
I listened to it in bits and pieces here and there as I had time, but often found myself excited to hear more as soon as I could!
I would recommend this book. The story is very sweet and Juliet narrates it perfectly.
Jane turns an ordinary romance into intriguing character studies.
I really can't choose a favourite character.
Yes, given the time, I could have listened to this book in one sitting.