Absolutely loved it! I challenge anyone to say any of Austen's novels surpass this one...seriously. Will totally take on any recommendation.
(B/c the only other book I've read by Austen is Pride & Prejudice)
Loved it more than Pride & Prejudice. (Granted, I will probably re-read it since I loved Persuasion so much but overall, I think this one, being her last published novel, was more refined in its writing.)
Anne Elliot is the middle child, sister of Elizabeth and Mary, daughter of Sir Walter Elliot. When Anne was nineteen years old, she was engaged to a sailor known as Frederick Wentworth, who, according to her family and dear friend Lady Russell, was not good enough for her--in wealth or status. Anne, being the timid flower she was at nineteen, was persuaded finally by Lady Russell not to go through with the marriage, utterly devastating Mr. Wentworth. Now, it's almost eight years later, and Anne's family is experiencing some financial trouble and have decided to let their house to an Admiral Croft and his wife, sister of a Captain Wentworth, while Anne and her family are supposed to move to Bath for the time being.
The plot begins from there and Anne is slightly derailed from going directly to Bath with her sister and Father by her younger, married and attention-seeking sister Mary Musgrove who has caught one of her frequent ill-spells. From Mary's husband's family, the Musgroves, Anne soon learns that the past eight years that have sort of wrecked her life physically and outwardly will come to a peak because Captain Wentworth has been expressly invited by the Musgroves to talk about their lost son who was one of the sailors on the Captain's ship years ago.
As Anne confronts the reality that is her successful and still unbelievably charming ex-fiancé, she questions the possibility that she could have been wrong in being persuaded not to marry him. It's with the help of the fantastic motley crew of characters that Austen constructed for this book that Anne can fully appreciate and thoroughly analyze her personal development theses past eight years. With the characters, I couldn't help comparing some to those in Pride & Prejudice, especially Mr. Elliot, heir to Sir Walter Elliot and Anne's cousin. I was constantly questioning whether he was going to be the Mr. Collins or Mr. Wickham of Persuasion. The Captain and Anne made for a very different pairing than Elizabeth and Darcy. Where Elizabeth is all pride and defiance, Anne is timid and docile. Where Darcy is stoic and rigid, Captain Wentworth is social and confident. I enjoyed the fact that Austen kind of revisited old territory where the antagonist in this book is concerned but I mostly could not get enough of the new diverse characters and their corresponding background stories.
As I said before, this time around Austen's writing was more refreshingly understandable and cohesive than when I first attempted one of her novels. I don't know if it was better editing or what but when I had to put the book down I couldn't wait to pick it back up and continue with the story. Mainly that and the characters was the allure for me.
I'd say the only negative about Persuasion was the lack of deserved reproval of Anne's mutable and impressionable decisions when she was nineteen. Although she sort of acknowledged Lady Russell's influence and accepted her warning as a way of protecting Anne from some MIGHT-BE-HORRIBLE future, I think she should have been more conscious of how her family and friend were dictating how she should live her life. It came off as uncaring and gave the message that even though a woman rejects a man, if she wants to be with him again, she can just blame it on the circumstances at the time and not her own decisions.
However, overall, I have to give this book a high rating because I loved everything else so much that I could look past that flaw. It really was an awesome build-up to the romance and I liked how the antagonist's arc was handled and how the truth about them was revealed as well. Majorly recommended to read if you haven't read anything by Austen yet.