"Persuasion" is a great literary work, and, to my mind, Jane Austen's finest book. This was her final completed novel before her death, and was published posthumously. As is often the case with Ms. Austen's fiction, "Persuasion" deals with the social issues of the times and paints a fascinating portrait of Regency England, especially when dealing with the class system. Rigid social barriers existed - and everyone wanted to marry "up" to a higher station - and, of course, into wealth. This is also a very poignant and passionate story of love, disappointment, loss and redemption. The point Austen makes here, is that one should not ever be persuaded to abandon core values and beliefs, especially for ignoble goals. There are consequences, always.
Gillian Beer writes a fascinating Introduction in this Penguin Classic Edition, in which she discusses Miss Austen's portrayal of the double-edged nature of persuasion. This complete and unabridged edition also contains a biography of the author, an Afterword, a new chronology and full textual notes.
Sir Walter Elliot, Lord of Kellynch Hall, is an extravagant, self-aggrandizing snob, and a bit of a dandy to boot. He has been a widower for many years and spends money beyond his means to increase his social stature. His eldest daughter, who he dotes on, is as conceited and spoiled as he is. The youngest daughter, Anne, is an intelligent, sensitive, capable and unassuming woman in her late twenties when the story opens. She had been quite pretty at one time, but life's disappointments have taken their toll and her looks are fading. She and her sister are both spinsters. Anne had once been very much in love with a young, and as yet untried, navel officer. A woman who had been a close friend to Anne's mother, persuaded Anne to "break the connection," convincing her that she could make a much better match. After much consideration, Anne did not follow her heart or her better instincts, and she and her young officer, Frederick Wentworth, separated. She has never again found the mutual love or companionship that she had with him. Anne's older sister never married either, because she hadn't found anyone good enough! She still hopes, however, for an earl or a viscount.
The Elliot family is forced to financially retrench because of their extravagance. They lease Kellynch Hall to...of all people...Wentworth's sister and her husband. Elliot, his oldest daughter and her companion, move to a smaller lodging in Bath for the season, leaving Anne to pack up their belongings before joining them. She gets the Cinderella treatment throughout the book. Anne decides to first visit with her middle sister, an abominably spoiled, whiny hypochondriac, Mrs. Musgrove. She has made a good, but not brilliant match to a local squire. Her husband, Charles Muskgrove, his parents, and their two younger, eligible daughters, Louisa and Henrietta, are delightful. They all tolerate Mrs. Muskgrove, barely, and adore Anne. It is at the Muskgrove estate that Anne meets Frederick Wentworth again, after his absence of seven years. He is in the neighborhood, because his sister is now in the area, residing at Kellynch, of course. Wentworth is now a Captain in the Royal Navy and quite wealthy. When their eyes meet for the first time, you can absolutely feel Anne's longing and remorse. He is aloof with Anne, although civil. The man was hurtfully rejected once before and it appears that he still feels her snub. Now Wentworth is on the marriage market and Louisa sets her cap for him. Accidents and various adventures ensue, from the resorts of Lyme and Bath to the Muskgrove estate, bringing Anne and Wentworth closer together. The passion between the two is sooo palpable, although Very understated, (this is Regency England after all). I think this is Ms. Austen at her most passionate. Some scholars say that she modeled Anne Elliot after herself.
This remarkable novel, and the issues it tackles, is just as germane today as it was when written. And the romance...well, no one does romance better than Jane Austen.