Persuasion, the last book completed by Jane Austen before her death at the age of 42 in 1817, and published posthumously, tells the story of a pair of star-crossed lovers torn apart by the expectations of class and the demands of family. Anne Elliott is the protagonist of the novel, and is long estranged from her first and only true love, the naval officer Frederick Wentworth. Separated for nearly eight years, the pair is reunited when Wentworth has become a successful Navy captain, while Anne’s own fortunes have turned for the worse and her family’s place in societal circles is jeopardized.
Like Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the story is concerned with issues of class and propriety, but the former book is the more charming of the two. Certainly, Anne Elliott is a likeable character and I suspect that Captain Wentworth was meant to be as well, but unlike his counterpart in Pride and Prejudice, the literary hero Fitzwilliam Darcy, Frederick Wentworth is under-developed as a character.
Still, Austen’s wry observations of the ridiculousness of social customs and her satirical observations on issues of class and status make Persuasion a worthwhile read. Had I read it before Pride and Prejudice, it is possible that I would have a greater appreciation for it than I do. But I read Pride and Prejudice first, and as the blurb on the back cover of Persuasion reminds us, “Sometimes it’s impossible to forget your first love…”