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First published in 1818, Persuasion was Jane Austen’s last work. Its mellow character and autumnal tone have long made it a favorite with Austen readers. Set in Somersetshire and Bath, the novel revolves around the lives and love affair of Sir Walter Elliot, his daughters Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary, and various in-laws, friends, suitors, and other characters, In Anne Elliot, the author created perhaps her sweetest, most appealing heroine.
At the center of the novel is Anne’s thwarted romance with Captain Frederick Wentworth, a navy man Anne met and fell in love with when she was 19. At the time, Wentworth was deemed an unsuitable match and Anne was forced to break off the relationship. Eight years later, however, they meet again. By this time Captain Wentworth has made his fortune in the navy and is an attractive “catch.” However, Anne is now uncertain about his feelings for her. But after various twists and turns of fortune, the novel ends on a happy note.
In Persuasion, as in such novels as Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma, Austen limned the plight of young women who could escape the constraints of family life only by marrying, and suggest the foolishness of women who believed they were free and not dependent on the financial and social resources of men. At the same time, Persuasion offers an ironic and subtle paean to the true love that enables one woman to rise above straitened economic circumstances and the stifling social conventions that restricted women to narrowly circumscribed lives in the common sitting room.
Sure to appeal to admirers of Jane Austen, Persuasion will delight any reader with its finely drawn characters, gentle satire, and charming re-creation of the genteel world of the 19th-century English countryside.
Anne Elliot must have been Jane Austen herself, speaking for the last time. There is something so true, so womanly about her, that it is impossible not to love her. She is the bright-eyed heroine of the earlier novels matured, chastened, cultivated, to whom fidelity has brought only greater depth and sweetness instead of bitterness and pain. —Anne Thackeray Ritchie
The wit of Jane Austen has for partner the perfection of her taste. —Virginia Woolf