History: This book is Jane Austen's last completed novel. She began it soon after she had finished Emma, completing it in August, 1816. She died, aged 41, in 1817, but Persuasion was not published until 1818.
Plot: Anne Elliot is the overlooked middle daughter of the vain Sir Walter Elliot, a baronet who is all too conscious of his good looks and rank and spends excessive amounts of money. Anne's mother, a fine, sensible woman, is long dead, and her elder sister, Elizabeth, resembles her father in temperament and delights in the fact that as the eldest daughter she can assume her mother's former position in their rural neighborhood. Anne's younger sister, Mary, is a nervous, clinging woman who has made an unspectacular marriage to Charles Musgrove of Uppercross Hall, the heir to a bucolic but respected local squire. None of her surviving family can provide much companionship for the elegant-minded Anne, who, still unmarried at 27, seems destined for spinsterhood.
After she met and fell in love with Wentworth, at age nineteen, Anne had been persuaded by her mother's great friend —and her own trusted confidante, the widow Lady Russell— to break the engagement. Lady Russell had questioned the wisdom of Anne marrying a penniless young naval officer without family or connections and whose prospects were so uncertain. Wentworth is left bitter at Lady Russell's interference and Anne's own want of fortitude.
Wentworth re-enters Anne's life when Sir Walter is forced by his own profligacy to let the family estate to none other than Wentworth's brother-in-law, Admiral Croft. Wentworth's successes in the Napoleonic Wars resulted in his promotion and enabled him to amass a fortune from prize money awarded for capturing enemy vessels. The Musgrove girls are attracted to Wentworth, all this is hard on Anne, due to her regret at breaking off the engagement and Wentworth's constant attention to the Musgrove girls. She tries to escape their company as often as she can, preferring to spend time with her nephews.
Captain Wentworth's visit to a close friend, Captain Harville, in nearby Lyme Regis results in a day-long outing being organized by those eager to see the resort. While there, Louisa Musgrove sustains a concussion in a fall brought about by her own impetuous behaviour. This highlights the difference between the headstrong Louisa and the more sensible Anne. While onlookers exclaim that Louisa is dead and her companions stand around dumbfounded, Anne administers first aid and summons assistance. Wentworth's admiration for Anne reawakens as a result.
Louisa's recovery is slow and her self-confidence is severely shaken. Her newfound timidity elicits the kind attention and reassurance of Wentworth's friend Captain Benwick, who had been mourning the recent death of his fiancée. The couple find their personalities to be now more in sympathy and they become engaged.
Meanwhile, Sir Walter, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth's scheming friend Mrs. Clay, the widowed daughter of Sir Walter's agent, have relocated to Bath. Sir Walter's cousin and heir, William Elliot, who long ago slighted the baronet, now seeks a reconciliation. Elizabeth assumes that he wishes to court her, while Lady Russell more correctly suspects that he admires Anne.
Although William Elliot seems a perfect gentleman, Anne distrusts him; she finds his character disturbingly opaque. She is enlightened by an unexpected source when she discovers an old school friend, Mrs. Smith, living in Bath in straitened circumstances. Mrs. Smith and her now-deceased husband had once been Mr. Elliot's closest friends. Having encouraged them into financial extravagance, he had quickly dropped them when they became impoverished. Anne learns, to her great distress, of his layers of deceit and calculated self-interest. In addition, her friend speculates that Mr. Elliot wants to reestablish his relationship with her family primarily to safeguard his inheritance of the title, fearing a marriage between Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay. This helps Anne to understand more fully the dangers of persuasion—in that Lady Russell pressed her to accept Mr. Elliot's likely offer of marriage—and helps her to develop more confidence in her own judgment.
Ultimately, the Musgroves visit Bath to purchase wedding clothes for their daughters Louisa and Henrietta (who has become engaged to Hayter). Captain Wentworth and his friend Captain Harville accompany them. Anne and Harville discuss attachments with Wentworth writing a note within earshot of the discussion. This causes him to write a note to Anne detailing his feelings for her. In a tender scene, Anne and Wentworth reconcile and renew their engagement. The match is now more palatable to Anne's family — their waning fortunes and Wentworth's waxing ones have made a considerable difference. Also, ever overvaluing good looks, Sir Walter is favorably impressed with his future son-in-law's appearance. Lady Russell admits she has been completely wrong about Captain Wentworth, and she and Anne remain friends.
Review: Persuasion’s main theme is also the title of the book. The idea is that Anne Elliot was long ago persuaded by friends and family not to marry a man, and thus, her life is less happy.
Anne at 27 is one of Jane Austen’s older heroines, 7 years older than Elizabeth of Pride and Prejudice, and a full decade older than Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey. Her age is necessary in the book, as much is made of her patience and maturity throughout the story.
There is no antagonist in this book, rather a cast of annoyances in Anne’s life - her two rather selfish sisters, a vainglorious father, her sister’s friend, and other scheming souls. Anne’s patience and prudence throughout the story make her one of the more boring characters in her own life.
The book itself is boring, I do not enjoy Jane Austen’s books.
Opening Line: “Sir Walter Eliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, as if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed.”
Closing Line: “She gloried in being a sailor’s wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance.”
Quotes: "There they exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure everything, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement. There they returned again into the past, more exquisitely happy, perhaps, in their re-union, than when it had been first projected; more tender, more tried, more fixed in a knowledge of each other's character, truth, and attachment; more equal to act, more justified in acting."
Rating: Awful, torture.