Powerful. That is the one word, I would use to describe this book. For it is truly powerful in every aspect and in every possible way; always leaving me overwhelmed, choked up with suppressed laughter at the ridiculousness of Mary Musgrove and Sir Walter Elliot, teary-eyed by Wentworth's beautiful declaration of love, gratified with Anne Elliots destiny and marveling over the beauty of Austen's undying storytelling and writing style. Powerful is the only word I would find remotely fitting to sum up this novel.
“A natural sequel of an unnatural beginning
This is by no means a typical Austen novel, and I do believe that even the most regular Austen-reader have been surprised when reading this for the first time. First of all the main character, Anne Elliot, is highly unusual. She is not a blooming young girl about to find love, in fact she is quite the contrary. She has outgrown her beauty, she has loved a man, she has fought and she has lost
. The plot begins in the aftermath of all this, and in consequence the tone of the novel is several shades darker than the usual cheerful storytelling Austen is known for.
Persuasion is also a novel of decay. Everyone is in a state of alteration; wrinkles appear in the face of the most respectable characters, titles and estates are lost and even the furniture grows shabby. Persuasion is in many ways a novel of time passing, which no one is spared for (except Sir Walter Elliot, who is in fact as frozen in his look as he is in time). This can be interpreted as a clever way of showing how a new era is coming, and how society is adapting.
People also get hurt in Persuasion, they get sick and they face multiple dangers. Men are lost at sea, and women and children get hurt while safe on the solid ground, drawing to the conclusion that no place is really safe after all. The background theme in Persuasion is indeed grave, and the main plot doesn't offer much consolation. Anne Elliot's sorrowful fate causes the novel to be very melancholic overall.
"Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant.
However this is also a story of hope. A story of revived feelings, enduring love and firmness of character. In the midst of all these changes in society Anne Elliot and her feelings never alters. She is the definition of loyalty. Her love is firm, and even though she isn't hopeful, she doesn't regret anything
(which is very remarkable, considering the usual plot of Austen's education of the young lady).
Captain Wentworth may have several regrets, but his love is just as enduring, just as firm. I do think him the most admirable of all Austen's men (oh yes you heard me. Mr. Darcy does not stand a chance against Frederick Wentworth!). Chapter 11 in vol. 2 never fails to make me gasp, and spill several tears. It is beyond comparison the most romantic thing I have ever read.
I still remember the first time I read it. Tears ran down my face, and I actually sobbed (sentimental, much?). I was completely overpowered by the magnificence of the plot, the characters and the language. It is such a short little book, and I remember wishing it never to end. But alas! All good things must come to an end, and as this book is undoubtedly good it had to end as well.
Many people describe this as a 'Cinderella story', but I would never venture as far as that. The book is far too biting in its sarcasm, far too melancholic in its tone and far too cryptic in its ending (war reference, anyone?) to be compared to a fairy tale. Austen was after all a realist.
Persuasion is exceptional. And most of all it is powerful. It is my favorite book of all time, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I love it, and already feel like reading it again.