If you know me, you know that I fell in love with Jane Austen a long time ago. Pride and Prejudice has been one of my favorite novels since I first read it as a teen. (What can I say! I’m still a romantic!) But I came to Persuasion later in life, finally reading it as an adult after watching the BBC’s version of the book on NPT when I was about 27—which happens to be the age of Austen’s heroine in Persuasion, Anne Elliot. (It also helped that Captain Wentworth was played by Rupert Penry-Jones, who despite not being my type, was very cute!)
Maybe I loved this story because I connected too much with Anne, a 27-year-old unmarried woman who thinks her chance at love has passed her by. Maybe I loved it because somehow it seemed more real and mature than some of Austen’s other works. Perhaps I just loved it because I love a happy ending and like Anne and her Captain Wentworth, believe in the constancy of love.
Whatever the reason, Persuasion became my favorite Jane Austen novel and it remains so. As I hinted at earlier, I think this novel shows more maturity from Austen. She was older; her heroine was older. Persuasion was Austen’s last completed novel, written shortly before her death, and probably in a hurry as her illness progressed. Maybe because she wrote it fairly quickly and without time for extensive revisions, it’s shorter than some of her other works. (And to all my friends who have set out to read P&P and failed, maybe this is the Austen novel to start with. Ease in!) It doesn’t feel unfinished or hurried, but it gets to the point, and somehow tells a more realistic love story than some of her other books.
There are a lot of writers out there who I make fun of because their books seem to follow a pattern (take Nicholas Sparks, for example). What makes their work and Austen’s different is that she’s such a good writer. Yes, you know her characters are likely to end up together. We probably wouldn’t like her as much if Elizabeth didn’t end up with Darcy and Anne didn’t get her Captain Wentworth. But somehow, in the midst of that, she taps into emotions and ways of thinking that we relate to. Women love Jane Austen because we’ve been self-controlled Elinor and followed our heart like Marianne (Sense and Sensibility). We’ve missed the good guy in front of our faces like Emma. We’ve misjudged people and sometimes made poor decisions out of a desire to feel special (Elizabeth and Lydia in P&P). And, if you’re old enough and been single long enough, you’ve felt like Anne Elliot, forgotten, overlooked, and ignored.
If you’re looking for a good love story to read this summer, throw away trashy romance novels and all those silly Christian romance novels. Pick up Persuasion and give it a chance. It may take awhile to get used to the Regency time period, manners, customs, and language. But when you finish, you won’t be sorry. And you’ll have a smile on your face.