Author: Jane Austen
Genres: Fiction, Classics
Pub. Date: 1818 (read Dec. 2020 on Audible)
Narrator: Florence Pugh & Cast
Persuasion was my second pick from the Audible suite of full cast Jane Austen audiobooks. I understand it’s one of her less popular books, but I’ve heard some good things about Anne Elliot and decided to jump into it.
It was definitely a different beast than P&P, though I’m coming to recognize a bit of pattern in many of Austen’s books. At 27 years of age, Anne is one of Austen’s much older heroines and definitely the member of her family with the most sense. She fell in love earlier in life to Captain Wentworth, but was advised by her family to decline him due to his lack of fortune and title.
In contrast to P&P, Anne’s family comes from high breeding and so they had a bit more pride than I’d come to expect from the Bennet family. While the Bennet’s were concerned with marrying up, the Elliot’s were concerned with maintaining their social status. The recurring theme of Austen’s novels being that regardless of money and class, women are really at the mercy of their marriage as their social status will drop or advance to that of their husband when they marry.
I liked Anne – she was sensible, considerate, and much more tolerant than I would have been in her circumstance. Next to her character, many of the other characters seemed childish and frivolous. Even though marriage is the ultimate achievement for these women, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at the Musgrove sisters as they flirted with the various men in the book. Next to them, Anne felt so mature, it was hard to understand how all the men weren’t taken with her.
I found the structure of this book interesting though. It works up to a climax just a little past the halfway mark, when Louisa has her accident and the plot seems to ramp down from there even though there’s a lot of book left. I was also surprised by how much Anne seemed to judge others by their birth and title as well. Although I suppose it makes sense as she ultimately turned Wentworth down the first time because of his lack of title or fortune.
I liked that Anne was older and more mature, but as far as romance goes, I wasn’t as sold on this book. I liked Anne and I had nothing against Wentworth, but I also felt that I really didn’t know very much about him. Austen takes the time in P&P (and in S&S and Emma) to introduce us to her male characters are well. We get their backstories and through their actions become endeared to them. In Persuasion, I felt like I got limited backstory of Captain Wentworth. I didn’t really know why Anne fell in love with him to begin with and they had limited interactions that gave me a sense of his true character.
Their relationship grows towards the end of the novel and you start to see an inkling of their desire for one another, but I felt the romance of it was wrapped up too suddenly. While Wentworth’s letter was certainly romantic, I wanted more action to back up the goodness of his character. Overall I still liked it, but it was certainly different from her other novels.
Some of the highlights for me were (in no particular order):
– Wentworth’s letter to Anne at the end
– Mary’s selfishness and general ridiculousness
– Charles Musgrove’s good nature
– Mary calling out the sexism of motherhood
– The Crofts love for one another
– Anne’s conversation with Mrs. Smith where all is revealed
– The manner in which Louisa becomes injured (wtf)
– Sir Walter and Elizabeth being idiots about being unable to reduce their lifestyle despite having no money
– Anne’s sensibility and ability to be happy for others despite her own heartbreak