Persuasion by Jane Austen

This was my third Jane Austen book – I thought the first one I read was pretty great, and I thought the second one I read was really boring, so I went into this book feeling like it could go either way. Fortunately, I really enjoyed this one, and perhaps it comes down to the fact that it was written towards the end of Austen’s life (by which point, she’d have had plenty of time to refine her skills).

Persuasion is a novel about a woman named Anne Elliot who has to move (along with her family) into a smaller home in Bath after facing some financial hardship. This, however, brings up tensions from her past, as the new home is owned by someone who’s wife is related to somebody that she was once going to be married to. Of course, the marriage never happened originally and now, at age 27, she doubts that she will ever marry and feels awkward about running into her former fiancĂ© (Captain Wentworth), so she postpones going to Bath by having a prolonged visit with her sister at the nearby Kellynch Hall.

This isn’t a novel with huge amounts of drama or action, but it’s a novel about interesting people who I felt invested in. The social dynamics and the encounters the various characters have with one another were always fun to read. This being Jane Austen, there are often comically biting remarks made between the characters and other humorous interactions.

What I liked about this one in particular (more than the other Austen novels I’ve read) is the greater emphasis on feminism. One scene in particular has a man trying to tell a female character how women behave at large, which she refutes, and he tells her that he has read many books which back up his point of view on the matter, only for her to rightly point out that most of those books will have been written by men. Meanwhile, there’s a character named Mrs. Smith who gives an insight into a poorer person’s life, which is refreshing since Austen novels are usually pretty focused on relatively affluent people.

As someone who lives in Bath, I also appreciated the fact that much of the storyline takes place in my hometown, with descriptions of streets and locations that I know. Around Bath, you’ll find countless references to Jane Austen and the fact that she once lived here, and this novel in particular is one to read for Bath residents who want to find out more about her work.

Overall, this was quite a cosy read. From walks with friends in the countryside, through to long discussions in drawing rooms, there are plenty of conversations between great characters in this book and it’s easy to lose yourself in them. The romance in this novel was one I actually felt invested in (which is rare for something of this era) and it feels relatively short too (which is also refreshing for its period). If you’ve never read a Jane Austen novel before, I recommend this as a good place to start.

Rating: 8.3/10

Buy it here.

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