Persuasion was published in 1817, six months after Jane Austen’s death, and is the last novel she completed in full.
The novel tells the story of Anne Elliot, now in her late 20s, the daughter of a vain and improvident baronet, Sir Walter Elliot. The family is in debt, and in order to save money they rent their noble property to a retired Admiral and his wife. This brings Anne into unexpected and initially unwelcome contact with the brother of the Admiral’s wife, Captain Frederick Wentworth. Eight years previously, Wentworth had proposed to Anne, only to be rejected by her after she was persuaded by an older friend that he was an unsuitable match. He reacted angrily to this rejection, and she has had no contact with him since.
At the time Anne rejected him, he was a poor naval officer, without his own command. In the years since, however, during the course of the Napoleonic Wars, he has become rich, as many successful captains did during that period. Anne dreads encountering him again, and when she does, he shows no sign of his earlier affection, instead paying his attentions to Anne’s younger sisters-in-law, and Anne must keep her emotions under strict control. Time and circumstance eventually lead to happier results.
Persuasion was well-regarded on publication and has slowly increased in popularity since. It has been turned into several television series and movies.
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.