Book Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Happy New Year! I meant to post this yesterday, but nothing went right yesterday. I really hope this isn’t a sign of how the rest of 2014 will go. Fingers crossed for a good year, with only a few bad days.

Persuasion was Jane Austen’s last completed novel. I did it; I’ve read all of her novels. Now that I’m finished, I’m somewhat sad. Austen has always been one of my favorite authors. Here’s the good news: I have a horrible memory so if I decide to re-read any of her novels, it’ll be like I’m reading it for the first time—sorta.

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

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?

My review:

I mentioned in my review of Emma that it took me several chapters for me to get into that novel. The same is true for this one. In fact it took me a lot longer to get into Persuasion. Once I did, I really enjoyed it. One of the things I noticed that was different was the lack of witty dialogue. Let’s face it, Pride and Prejudice is full of wit and that’s one of the reasons I love that novel. This one didn’t have the same charm. And it’s a shame since I really like the main character, Anne Elliot. And I found it refreshing that Austen wrote about a woman who wasn’t young (according to the standards during Austen’s time). I don’t know enough about Austen to speculate as to why she approached Persuasion differently. As I read the novel, I thought she was trying something new. Unfortunately she died way before her time, so we’ll never know exactly to what level she would have taken her writing.

For those of you who haven’t read any Austen, please don’t start with this one. Or I fear you won’t read any of her other books, and that would be a travesty. She’s a wonderful writer. Even when she isn’t at her best, she’s still heads above so many others.

On a different note, three bloggers were kind enough to interview me about my latest novel, Marionette. If you would like to read the interviews please visit Tarah’s BlogKaitlin’s Blog, and Officially Jennifer.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American living in England. When she isn’t writing, she’s traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs, or reading. Not necessarily in that order.
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76 Responses to Book Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

  1. C9 says:

    You’ve read all? How many are there, actually? I haven’t read one!

  2. Ah, Persuasion. It does take some ‘getting into’ but I think it is worth it. It is not as “light and bright and sparkling” (a direct quote from JA, talking about Pride and Prejudice) as P&P but it has its own merits. I love Wentworth’s love letter at the end. Reading that scene and the following few chapters give me chills because they are so moving and beautiful.

    It is always somewhat sad when you read all of an author’s books and feel like you want more. But there are other bits and pieces of writing from Austen. Her “Juvenilia” (pieces she wrote as a teenager) are amusing and a while ago I read an excellent completion of her unfinished novel, The Watsons. I can’t remember who it was by (maybe Joan Aiken?) but it was very enjoyable.

    • TBM says:

      Yes I shouldn’t cross her off the list yet, since there are still writings by her. But no more completed novels. Will keep an eye out for The Watsons.

      At first I wasn’t a fan of Wentworth, but by the end I really started to like him. This is the type of book that you have to stick with since many of the characters will surprise you. Once I was 2/3rds done, I couldn’t put the book down.

    • For a long time, “Persuasion” was my favourite Austen novel and I, too, loved Wentworth’s heart-rending letter to Anne near the end of the book. About the time I first read this book, the TV series “The Onedin Line” was running on the BBC and somehow, Capt. Wentworth and Capt. Onedin got conflated in my head, so that I pictured Wentworth looking like Peter Gilmore (who played James Onedin – for those who remember). Funny the kind of memories that stick with one…

  3. Good for you for reading all of Austen. Great accomplishment. I loved Persuasion and taught it decades ago. Sorry to say, I don’t remember it the way I should. My memory is fuzzying with age. Sad!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • TBM says:

      I would be hard pressed to remember the books I taught when I was in grad school, twenty years ago. That’s the thing about us, since we read so much it’s hard to remember them all. There are some books I read six months ago that are getting fuzzy.

  4. I read this one fairly recently, and I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.

    • TBM says:

      In the beginning, I really didn’t like it. Ended up liking it and I’m glad I finished, but I can see why some might abandon it.

  5. The Guat says:

    Oh. I feel so bad. I want to love Austen. I really do. The people that I know who have read her love her too, but I feel like Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail. It took me so long to get into her book. It took me forever to get into Austen and I eventually finished it, but I haven’t read one since. It burned me out to have taken so long and it wasn’t because I had kids or life was crazy, in fact it was pre-kid pre-chaos. Oh well. Maybe the next one. In any case I wanted to congratulate you for reading all of her works. Congrats!

    • TBM says:

      Don’t feel bad. There are so many authors out there to love. She’s just not the right fit for you. That’s the beauty about books–they are personal experiences and everyone has their own reaction to them.

      BTW, I love Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail.

  6. biblioglobal says:

    Oh, how I love Persuasion. But I guess I can see your point that it might not be the right Austen to read first. I wouldn’t suggest starting with Mansfield Park, Sense and Sensibility, or Northanger Abbey either though. And personally, I’m not such a fan of Emma. So I guess P&P really is the only option!

    • TBM says:

      Once I got into Emma, I liked it, but it wasn’t my favorite. P&P, in my opinion, is her best and if someone was only going to read one, I would say they had to read that one. I really ended up liking Persuasion, which surprised me because in the beginning, I didn’t like it much at all.

  7. You read them all–congrats! I agree it’s not a good idea to start with this one.
    Hope your week gets better, TBM.

  8. I didn’t mind Persuasion, as in I’m so not an Austen fan. I thought it was slightly more mature and without the vapidity of some of the others. I studied it for A level at school so went through it a fair few times.

    As one of my many free book acquisitions (a la the vamp series) someone gave me an Austen compendium and it included letters from Lady Susan, or something like that. Not a bad read. I’ll try and look up more detail.

    I do think P&P is over-rated.

  9. She’s an acquired taste, that’s for sure. Nice review and Happy New Year! 🙂

  10. You know, I think this is the only Austen title I haven’t read. (gasp) I think I’d heard similar comments from other readers and just never got the gumption to pick this one up. It’s on my shelf collecting dust. 😦
    PS — have you read any PG Wodehouse?

    • TBM says:

      I’ve only read Thank You, Jeeves. He’s on my radar, though. I keep seeing the shows on the telly but refuse to watch them since I want to read the books first. I better get on it, since there are many.

  11. Letizia says:

    I love that you admit that you have a terrible memory so rereading them will still be a pleasure (I remember the feeling I get from a book and specific scenes or lines that move me, but am terrible at character names, for example, haha!).

    • TBM says:

      Oh I wish I could remember more and to be able to recall certain lines would be a treat. Yes, character names slip my mind as well–sometimes when I’m still reading the book, especially if it’s a character that pops up occasionally.

      On a different note, I recently proofread my first novel again for the paperback version and I spelled one of my minor character’s name wrong on four occasions. Gosh I felt like an idiot.

  12. Ok, I know you’re going to be ashamed of me, but I don’t think I’ve ever read any Austen :(. I have enough trouble keeping up with all the new books let alone the classics LOL! On a positive note, we all have the occasional bad day, but I just know 2014 is going to be amazing for you :).

  13. I’ve read all of Jane Austen’s novels except Emma! I’ve tried so many times but I just can’t get into it. I loved Persuasion though. I love it’s quietness and maturity. Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice are my 2 favorite Austen novel.

  14. Darlene says:

    I loved Persuasion very much. It is a more mature book to be sure. I really feel the feminist in Jane Austen comes out in this book. There are some amusing characters and she really makes fun of the “titled” members of society. I wouldn’t recommend it as the first JA book to read but it is one not to be missed. There are some great books about JA as well. I recently read one called Cassandra and Jane by Jilll Pitkeathley which I enjoyed..

    • TBM says:

      I do love the way she mocks the titled members. Yes, I really enjoyed the fact that this book was more mature and had a feminist slant. It’s such a shame it was her last since I’m curious as to where she would have gone with her writing. Will keep an eye out for Cassandra and Jane! Thanks for the tip.

  15. It is really sad that her overall output was only a handful of books considering how talented she was. This is one that I’ve not finished. I believe I’ve read half the book. That is no comment as to the worth of the book, that is just my MO at times. I began reading it after watching the Sally Hawkins BBC version of Persuasion for the umpteenth time. I only mildly enjoyed that film the first time I watched it, then I watched it again and was smitten in a BIG way. Sally Hawkins is really great in it and it is one of my favorite film adaptations of Austen’s work. I seriously watched this movie three or four times last year plus watched the ending sequence another half dozen. I’m a hopeless romantic.

    • TBM says:

      I recently watched the movie here and I think it was a BBC production. I wonder if it was the same. At first I found the movie really slow, but then I stayed up past 1am to finish it so I obviously like it. I’m rubbish at remembering the names of actors.

      And I agree, Carl. It really is sad that she died at such a young age.

      • I know there are two or three BBC versions, this one is the latest, I believe. Oh it is so good!

      • TBM says:

        At the end, does Anne run so she won’t miss Wentworth? I thought that was a great scene and I loved how the director shot it.

      • Yes, that is the one. I LOVE that scene. That whole end sequence made me fall deeply in love with the movie. I especially enjoy that she is so out of breath when she arrives and that the film makers didn’t do anything to kind of tone that down but instead pictured a more realistic version of how she would be acting/talking after running all that way.

      • TBM says:

        Yes! I completely agree. And the entire time she was running, I was holding my breath. Even though I know the ending, I was still so caught up in the movie. Such a great scene!

      • Sally Hawkins’ performance is superb. She does such a masterful job, even with her expressions, of demonstrating the restraint that Anne would have, barely daring to hope that there could be a renewal of those affections, and I think the running scene is such a great visual representation of the way in which she would emotionally explode having received the proposal. It is a different way to picture the same emotional flood-burst seen in Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility when her character comes undone when she realizes that the love of her life is not married after all.

      • TBM says:

        I wouldn’t have survived back then since I can’t be that restrained. But then again, I may have been since they were taught that right from the start. The better half may like it if I didn’t fly off the handle sometimes 🙂

        I loved Thompson in Sense and Sensibility. I still remember when I first saw it in the theater with two of my friends. Now I want to watch that one again. I recently watched Emma with Paltrow and didn’t like it as much. I should find a BBC version of Emma.

      • Yes, we saw it in the theater when we lived in Tulsa. I remember it well myself. Such a beautiful film on the big screen. I’m quite fond of Paltrow’s version of Emma too and even though I’ve heard great things about the most recent BBC version I haven’t been able to make myself watch it . Need to do that this spring, when the urge to rewatch all my favorite Austin adaptations arises.

      • TBM says:

        Austin and spring do seem to go hand in hand. Oh and the latest Jane Eyre. I love that film as well. They show it quite a bit here and I should remember to record it.

      • Yes, we like that one as well. So perfectly moody.

      • TBM says:

        I think you’re the one that recommended it to me.

  16. IsobelandCat says:

    I enjoyed Persuasion, but predictably my favourites are Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.
    Did you watch Death Comes to Pemberley over Christmas? I enjoyed it immensely. Also do try Jo Baker’s novel, Longbourn. An interesting spin off from the P&P story.

    • TBM says:

      I was so angry with myself since I totally forgot to watch/record Death Comes to Pemberley. Hopefully they replay it or maybe I can find it on DVD. Will keep an eye out for Longbourn in the charity shops. I saw a copy of Affinity the other day but didn’t have any money on me. I went back the next day and it was gone!

  17. Rorybore says:

    The one thing that I did love definitely about Persuasion is that is a more mature novel. not just in the heroine’s age, but I think the overall tone. I haven’t read it in years though – typically I only re-read P&P or S&S every few years. sometimes Emma. I think I will have to choose Persuasion as my annual Austen read this year.

  18. I think I’ve told you I’m a sucker for Jane Austen but it’s been years since I read this – off to the library for me!

  19. Geoff W says:

    Oh but Captain Wentworth!?!? Swoon 😀 It’s funny that the two of her’s I don’t particularly enjoy are her middle novels. I feel like she had such verve at the beginning and then at the end she had such caustic or underlying wit. I could be projecting this as it’s been a good while since I last read this one.

    • TBM says:

      Swoon–I love that word. In fact, I used it in the novel I’m working on now. Even on her bad days, she’s still a pretty good writer. That says a lot.

  20. lynnsbooks says:

    I haven’t read any of Austen for a long time. I do like them all – but not equally. Obviously Pride and Prejudice and Emma are the most well liked, probably followed by Sense and Sensibility. I do like Mansfield Park.
    I also enjoyed the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma.
    Lynn 😀

    • TBM says:

      If you’re an Austen fan, and I am, it’s hard to hate any of her books. But I agree, I don’t like them all on the same level.

  21. T.F.Walsh says:

    Haven’t read this one… might not rush to do so:) Great review.

  22. Robin says:

    This is good to know. The only book I have of Austen’s is Persuasion, and I was going to start with that. Now I’ll wait. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      Yes, if you haven’t read anything else by her, please start with a different one. At least, that’s my opinion. I’m sure there are many others who will disagree with me.

  23. Vishy says:

    Wonderful review, TBM. I haven’t read ‘Persuasion’ yet. The story looks quite interesting. I think I will like it. Congratulations on reading all the Austens! This is so wonderful!

  24. Happy New Year! I had mixed thoughts about this one. It definitely has a very slow beginning but I was glad I stuck with it. Anne makes an interesting protagonist. She’s very different to Austen’s other main characters, but I quite liked the change. It’s not my favourite Austen and I would agree that people shouldn’t start with this one!
    I’ve only got Emma left to read now. I think I’ve been delaying it because I don’t want to have no other new Austen books to look forward to!

    • TBM says:

      Oh I understand. I’m so sad that I don’t have any more of her books to read. It took me some time to get into Emma, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. Happy reading and happy New Year!

  25. Caroline says:

    It’s not my favourite either but I did like it.
    I was sad as well when i had completed my “Austen journey” this summer. Well, there are still the minor works or very early and unfinihsed things.
    I hope I’ll get around to reviewing the biography soon.

    • TBM says:

      I look forward to your review. Yesterday I was at the British Library and they had some of her letters there. I got quite a kick out of seeing her actual letters, even though they were under glass.

  26. Jo Bryant says:

    there is something about an Austen novel that just feels good to me

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