I recently finished a wonderful novel that I found here on the shelves of Oxfam, nestled between the other greats of romantic fiction’s best writer, Persuasion. I have previously read most of Jane Austen’s other novels (and watched their film adaptations over and over), like Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility, and they are definitely classics for a reason. Though they can sometimes, especially Emma, drag through small sections as the descriptions become too much and the modern reader just needs a bit of action, their worth is always proved through Austen’s excellent portrayal of varying personalities and the ways in which scathing wit can be conveyed through the most polite words. Frankly, though Mansfield Park was longer than most of the other novels it did not seem as slow as some of the smaller works.
However, Persuasion has definitely risen to the top of my list for Jane Austen novels, and perhaps for novels of all time. If you have not given her last novel a try yet, I would certainly recommend you skive off work right now and run down to the nearest book store. (Hopefully it ends up being Oxfam on Petergate, but I realize not everyone in the world lives in York).
Anyone can recognize their own past emotions in the heartbreak of Anne Elliot, and you truly feel the anguish of seeing her past love again, and he courting another girl. The social maneuverings and ridiculous yet so fully realized personalities of Anne’s two sisters provide a counterweight to the heavy emotional dramas experienced by the protagonist. I think Persuasion is definitely Jane Austen’s masterpiece.
As Jane herself never married, many people allude to this last novel as being the most autobiographical for Austen. How else could she know the depth of feeling attributed to Anne’s broken heart? However, she has always been able to describe the deep-seated emotions of the human heart, in each of her books the reader is amazed with how well their own feelings from one time or another are illustrated in the characters of her books.
I don’t want to spoil the ending, though of course most people could guess from the ultimately uplifting and successful ends to the rest of her novels, but the last letter described in the final pages was so moving and so expressive that I was incredibly amazed. Few people, and even fewer authors, could ever accomplish so much. Jane Austen’s Persuasion has instantly made it to my favorites list, and let me tell you, that is no easy feat. I may like a lot of books, but there aren’t many I would claim as favorites, and my list hasn’t changed much in the last few years.