‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

Written during Jane Austen’s race against failing health, Persuasion tells the story of Anne Elliot, a woman who – at twenty-seven – is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years ago, she was persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. When Anne and Frederick meet again, he has acquired both, but still feels the sting of her rejection. A brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, Austen’s last completed novel is also a movingly told love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.

My Thoughts Before Reading

I am finally doing it…

I am reading Persuasion.

This feels like a monumental day as I always declare Austen to be my favourite writer. I read my first Austen when I was a teenager. And within a month I had read all of her other full length novels except for this one.

And then I paused… I thought I should savour this book. Store it up for a rainy day…

And then that rainy day never came. I almost grew afraid of reading this book.

But here I am now. On a slightly damp day in July more than twenty years later and I am finally going to read the book.

Wish me luck!

My Review

Some days later…

WARNING TO ALL AUSTEN FANS! RANT AHEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh my god why didn’t anyone ever tell me what a wet-wipe Anne Elliot is??? I waited twenty years to read this…
THIS!!!!

Oh heavens no Jane.

I have always proclaimed Jane Austen to be my favourite author so it truly pains me to say this but wow did I not enjoy this AT ALL!!
I get that Austen was older and more ticked off at life when she wrote this and therefore was aiming for quite the sombre tone…
BUT THIS WAS NOTHING MORE THAN A DIRGE!!!!!

I was so excited to read this freaking book. And I read chapter one and was all ‘oh I’m loving it’ to people because it’s Austen! And my default reaction is love…
But then I realised I hadn’t picked up the book in well over a day…
AN AUSTEN!!
LEFT LANGUISHING ON MY BEDSIDE LOCKER!!!!
WHAT IS THIS SACRILEGE?????
And then it dawned on me…
I just wasn’t enjoying it.

Where were the sparkling characters that jump off the page?

People level accusations of dullness at Fanny Price from Mansfield Park… I want to ask those people have they read Persuasion??? Because Anne Elliot is dullness personified. She’s so humble and intelligent and meek and perfect and her family just don’t understand her…

AND SOMEONE PASS ME A FRYING PAN SO I CAN SLAP EITHER HER OR MYSELF!!!!

ANYTHING TO END THE TORMENT!!!!!
Reading about her was just tedious.

And Captain Wentworth…

Errr I’m sorry Jane but did you actually forget to include him in like half the book?!?!?! Because truly I feel like he utterly lacked presence and not one fiddlers did I give about him and Anne.

ONE GOOD LOVE LETTER IN THE SECOND LAST CHAPTER DOES NOT A GOOD LOVE STORY MAKE!!!!

And the supporting characters…

Dear god no.

Anne’s family were just ridiculously written. They shared one personality between them and that was shallow cliched knob. There was no nuance, no subtlety.

I have finished this book and truly I’m still confused by which one is which. I know there was a sister called Elizabeth and a cousin called Louisa? Was she even a cousin???? She wasn’t, but there was some marriage connection….

But basically no one left a truly lasting impression.

And the cad, Mr Elliot…. *yawn*

I’ve read that type of character before (Wickham, Willoughby, Frank Churchill, Henry Crawford) and each of them were faaaaaaar more interesting to read about.

And wtf was up with the narrative???? It was so choppy. All over the place really. And the prose lacking in both clarity and beauty.

About the only good thing this has going for it is that it’s not too long. I mean it felt long. But compared to some of Austen’s other works this was short.

Okay.

A POSITIVE! GOT TO FIND A POSITIVE!!!!!!!

I definitely enjoyed the social commentary that took place regarding gender inequality. It was interesting to see how a spurned man could take himself off to join the navy and earn himself both respectability and a fortune, whereas a woman had no such options available to her. She was utterly dependent on attracting a man to secure her future. And without man or fortune could end up on some very hard times like Anne’s friend Mrs Smith.

But overall to me this novel was dull.

I’ve always read Austen because I think she writes fabulously trashy escapist novels. Emma (which is probably her best written work imo) is so full of gossip and backbiting, Pride and Prejudice has the best enemies to lovers romance, Mansfield Park is full of high morals with an extremely tawdry underbelly, Sense and Sensibility explores the idea of gender inequality with more interesting characters and Northanger Abbey is straight up trashtastic gothic brilliance.

Whereas Persuasion just simpers along to its inevitable ending.

I’ve heard it referred to as autumnal…

I’d be more inclined to say barren. Yes there’s interesting social commentary but the plot and characters are so painfully prosaic that Austen’s biting satire can’t save this book.

I can’t bring myself to rate this lower than a three because it’s Austen.

But give it a few days…

If my annoyance keeps simmering away this might go lower.

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10 thoughts on “‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen – Book Review

  1. I’m in tears that you don’t like one of my favourite Austens. You’re right that this is a much less eventful, dramatic kind of book than say P&P or Northanger Abbey. But I still loved it for it’s portrait of a gentle girl much put upon by her awful relations, who is grieving for her love….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh it pains me so much that I hated it as much as I did (and still do). I will definitely reread it in the future though and hope that once rid of my expectations I might find something different in the reading experience to engage with.

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  2. Very sad you did not like Persuasion. I think it is pure genius, like all of her works. Arguably seeing the movie first was a critical error? Whenever I see the movie of a book first, the book invariably feels dull and flat. Reading is a personal matter and all opinions are valid, but I hope you will try this one again in a few years and may feel differently.

    Austen herself described Anne in a letter this way: “a heroine who is almost too good for me.” I think as with Fanny Price she was exploring the mind of a person quite unlike herself: controlled, subdued, patient, a long-suffering Christian.

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    1. I’m gutted I didn’t like it. Absolutely gutted. I think I waited too long to read it and therefore it was something that was always going to disappoint me… I agree with you that watching films before reading is a bad idea but it has been years since I saw an adaptation of this and even then it was only a very breezy tv film which was passably enjoyable but not something that truly stayed in my memory.
      That’s interesting what Austen herself said about Anne. I can definitely see what she meant. It’s odd because I am quite an admirer of Fanny Price and frequently defend her to other readers but Anne just rubbed me up the wrong way. I will read it again though. 100%. And I will hopefully come back to it with less expectation and find its qualities instead of my disappointment.

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  3. I will say your rant is fantastic! I love this review! Haha, I’ve never read the book but I’ve watched the movie many times, because it’s Austen and I just rotate my Austen movies because there are so few. Yes…Anne, oh Anne! She just does what she is told and so obedient. Louisa I think is her sister’s sister-in-law. 🤔

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  4. So, I have some things in common with you. I had read all of Austen’s novels a long time ago except one. And I also just this month decided to finally pick up the last one. And Emma is also IMO, Austen’s best. But, that’s where the similarities ended. Northanger Abbey is my last Austen. So, I’m getting to enjoy all the gothic goodness! I reread Sense and Sensibility earlier this month, and I’m also currently rereading Emma.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I hope you do enjoy Northanger Abbey. I reread it last year and basically laughed my butt off! I think it’s hilarious but I was buddy reading it with a friend and she DNFd it!!! Each to their own I guess! You make me want to reread Emma though, gosh it’s just soooo good isn’t it!!

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