Anne Elliot has grieved for seven years over the loss of her first love, Captain Frederick Wentworth. But events conspire to unravel the knots of deceit and misunderstanding in this beguiling and gently comic story of love and fidelity.
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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.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
At the head of the Elliot family is the baronet Sir Walter, a widower and a vain man who lives beyond his means and makes up his mind about people solely based on their appearance and station in life. His eldest and his youngest daughters take after him, to great comical effect, but Anne Elliot, his middle daughter, is quite different. She's a great reader of poetry and has never forgotten her first romantic attachment to Captain Frederick Wentworth, a romance which took place eight years before the story begins. But like all well bred young ladies of her day, she let herself be persuaded by a close friend of the family, Lady Russell, to break off the engagement because of Wentworth's apparent lack of fortune and prospects. But Wentworth is back, now having acquired great wealth and looking for a wife, and anyone will do, as long as she is fond of the navy. Anyone that is, but Anne.
This, the last novel Austen wrote as she was dying, is a story imbued with a sense of loss, missed opportunities and regret, but of course in the end, love must conquer all and hope wins the day.
This audio version by the ever-perfect Juliet Stevenson was quite a treat.
Juliet Stephenson's voice is compelling and versatile. I agree with another reviewer that she is merciless with those who are worthy of scorn, e.g. Mary. I have not read any Austen with my eyes but so enjoy listening to her words read by so capable a woman.
Anne's conversation with Captain Harville.
Juliet Stevenson is one of my favorite story tellers! This story is classic Jane Austen. I had to pay more attention because I had not see the movie before listening to the story.
Captain Wentworth of course!
Any other book by Jane Austen, she can't be compared to any other author.
The use of voice and tone helps keep the characters separate and the story in order. When reading Austin it is easy to become confused as so many characters share the same last name.
No, that would be too much, this kind of book is best enjoyed at varied intervals.
This is a lovely story, one of my favorites, and true Austen. It is beautifully narrated by a well chosen actress.
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.
At the age of nineteen, Anne fell in love with the handsome and dashing Captain Wentworth. She was young, beautiful, and aristocratic. He had no money, no position, and no family of consequence. After she is persuaded to reject his proposal, their fortunes change. Eight years later Captain Wentworth returns, as handsome and charming as ever, with a great fortune earned from a glorious military career. Anne, now considered a spinster, must watch as every marriageable woman competes for Captain Wentworth's attention and affection.
I love this book for so many reasons, but I'll restrict myself to two. Jane Austen, with her quick wit and keen observations, depicts with excruciating detail "the death of a thousand cuts." The supporting characters, whether well-meaning or completely self-absorbed, can't seem to act or speak without inflicting pain and mortification on our heroine. It seems like Anne cannot walk across a room without being insulted, overlooked, or injured in a dozen petty ways. But don't get the idea that Anne is one of those over-sensitive, weepy, self-pitying types. Quite the reverse! Her intelligence, fortitude, grace, considerateness, practicality, and exceptional character make the commonplace follies of everyone else seem all the more ridiculous.
Another reason I love this book is that by today's standards it is so delicate and subtle, and it's main characters have integrity. If you are like me, and can't abide the lurid, self-aggrandizing behavior that passes as entertainment these days, then this book will be food for your soul.
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 have recently been on an Austen kick. I never read her in High school like so many and I regret it. Some I have found difficult, others I have loved. Persuasion, falls right in the middle. At point of it I found it engrossing, at other points I just wished it would hurry up and end. I found the narration excellent, Juliet Stevenson is one of my favorite Austen narrators. It was more the story that went up and down. If you love Austen I would recommend it, if you are starting with Austen, it is not the one I would recommend but maybe at 3rd or 4th in line with some of her others.
I am new to Jane Austen books, and have only listened to them (not read the actual books). I have to say, I'm hooked, and Persuasion is a top favorite already. Juliet Stevenson is such a wonderful narrator, that I'm nervous about trying any other books without her!
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