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?
Jane Austen once compared her writing to painting on a little bit of ivory, 2 inches square. Readers of Persuasion will discover that neither her skill for delicate, ironic observations on social custom, love, and marriage nor her ability to apply a sharp focus lens to English manners and morals has deserted her in her final finished work.
Stevenson has read all of Austen's novels for audiobook, in abridged or unabridged versions, and her experience shows in this delightful production. Though dominated by the intelligent, sweet voice of Anne Elliot the least favored but most worthy of three daughters in a family with an old name but declining fortunes Stevenson provides other characters with memorable voices as well. She reads Anne's haughty father's lines with a mixture of stuffiness and bluster, and Anne's sisters are portrayed with a hilariously flighty, breathy register that makes Austen's contempt for them palpable. Anne's voice is mostly measured and reasonable an expression of her strong mind and spirit but Stevenson imbues her speech with wonderful shades of passion as Anne is reacquainted with Capt. Wentworth, whom she has continued to love despite being forced, years before, to reject him over status issues. Listening to Stevenson, as Anne, describe a sudden encounter with Wentworth, one hardly needs Austen's description of how Anne grows faint Stevenson's perfectly judged and deeply felt reading has already shown that she must have. Even those who have read Austen's novels will find themselves loving this book all over again with Stevenson's evocative rendition ringing richly in their ears.