3 out of 5 stars
Before I started this, I read that Persuasion is considered the "intellectual Austen book" and I have to agree. It was a hard one to read, much harder than P&P or S&S. (At least it only has one word in the title though lol.) The language is very grandiose in the beginning and there is very little dialogue, so it's hard to follow at times. Once we get into the story and into main character Anne's head more, it gets a little easier. And it's a funny thing. After finishing each of Austen's books, I've looked back on the previous ones with much more fondness than I first thought them. In this case, I feel like S&S is now my favorite of her books, but looking back at my review, I was very "meh". I think Austen's books really benefit from reading more than once, which I am likely to do in the future, and I can tell that at least one of them could become a "top 10 favorite book".
Persuasion is a quiet, subtle story and you can tell that this was Austen's final novel, as there is a maturity to it that is not seen in her previous books (at least the ones that I've read). Anne is the heroine of this story, but to her family and most of society, she is a nobody. At "seven and twenty years", she is well past her prime and in danger of becoming obsolete. Although nobody seems to be too worried about her sister, who is 2 years older. Anne did have her chance for true love, 8 years prior, with a Frederick Wentworth, but was persuaded by her family and close friend, Lady Russell, that it was not an appropriate match and so she broke it off. I was persuaded by my best friends to dump my 7th grade boyfriend because he was too weird. I'm still not over it. (Joking)
Anyway, it's 8 years down the road, Anne is still single and now Captain Wentworth is coming back to town, also conveniently single. Anne is a wreck on the inside, wondering how he is going to address her and if he's changed and if he thinks she's changed and if he still has feelings for her, etc...But on the outside, she's calm, cool, and collected. This is "society" after all. Women must always be demure and sensible, never showing true emotion. Psshhh...
So this story basically just follows Anne and how she deals with Captain Wentworth, who is pretty much freezing her out. He is looking for a wife, but "he had not forgiven Anne Elliot. She had used him ill; deserted and disappointed him; and worse, she had shown a feebleness of character in doing so, which his own decided, confident temper could not endure. She had given him up to oblige others. It had been the effect of over-persuasion. It had been weakness and timidity." Kind of harsh, considering she was only 19 at the time.
(sarcasm font, from both him & me!)
They must go along in the same social circles and make polite chitchat when absolutely necessary, but otherwise the two former lovebirds never interact. At the same time though, they are each slowly falling in love again. Especially for Captain Wentworth after he sees another man have an interest in Anne. He gave her a momentary glance,-a glance of brightness, which seemed to say, "That man is struck with you,-and even I, at this moment, see something like Anne Elliot again." Typical man lol. And this other man is definitely interested too. He's a distant relative of Anne's (I'm not really sure how or why that works, but we'll just go with it.) He had a falling out some time ago with the family, and was actually assumed to be attached to Anne's older sister Elizabeth, but that obviously didn't work out. Now he has worked his charms to get back into their good graces and seems smitten with Anne. Luckily, Anne doesn't seem as smitten with him and thinks there is something odd about his new behavior.
There is a brief storyline where Anne and her younger sister and her family goes on a mini vacation to a small beach town and of course Captain Wentworth is there too. He has been courting Louisa, a family friend of Anne, until she (Louisa) gets into an accident and sustains a head injury. It's a pretty tense moment and Anne steps up, being calm and in charge. Wentworth sort of admires her after that and realizes that he doesn't really want to be with Louisa. He disappears for awhile and Anne concentrates on figuring out Mr Elliot's plan and trying to move past her former feelings for Captain Wentworth. Later on, she gets in a heated discussion with Wentworth's friend about who feels love's stinging loss more-men or women-and comes out with this little gem: "Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove any thing." Go Anne! Go Jane Austen! (Bolding mine!)
Of course, Wentworth is there listening to everything and can stay silent no longer, so he gives his grand gesture in the form of a letter, pouring his heart out and hoping for the return of hers. It's maybe not quite as good as Mr Darcy's speech, but it still made my heart flutter, as did Anne's. And this time, she didn't let anyone persuade her differently. And they lived happily ever after, Mr Elliott runs off with some floozy, Louisa recovers from her head injury but is a little more serious now, and Elizabeth remains a spinster living with her father. (I'm assuming on that last one. I really didn't like her.)