Persuasion by Jane Austen

#56 in my book challenge for the year was Persuasion by Jane Austen. I’m slowly working my way through the six major novels by Austen. Persuasion is her last, and was published posthumously. Anne Elliott is a typical Austen heroine in that her father is fiscally irresponsible, she has one vain sister and one self-involved sister, and she becomes involved with a man who is not as good as he seems. Her particulars are interesting, though. She regrets that a family friend talked her out of an engagement in her youth, and the novel does a credible job of maintaining doubt as to whether they will get together. Anne is a sympathetic and likeable character, even as she is maddeningly reticent. There are three women in the novel who aren’t entirely good or bad: Mrs. Russell (the widowed family friend), Mrs. Clay (the possibly widowed friend of Anne’s older sister), and Mrs. Smith (an ailing, poor, widowed school chum of Anne’s). There were three other characters who were also widowed: Anne’s father, Captain Benwick, and Anne’s cousin Mr. Elliott. The novel is much darker than the other Austen novels I’ve read, and dwells much on illness and death. It’s filled with regret, and has sharp judgment rather than gentle humor for its minor characters. In constrast with Price and Prejudice and Emma, this is the work of a more mature, less happy writer.

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