Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Persuasion by Jane Austen (audiobook)

Persuasion is tied with Pride and Prejudice as my favorite Jane Austen novel. I love Persuasion. I’ve read the novel many times in my life and it touches me each and every time. I also love the 1995 movie starring Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root (Not so much the 2007 version). I’m due for a rewatch of the movie; hopefully I will do it as part of this year’s Everything Austen Challenge.

I had never listened to the audiobook version of Persuasion before, but I did enjoy the audiobooks of several other Austen novels as part of last year’s Everything Austen Challenge. I listened to Persuasion last week mostly while I was working and found it to be a very enjoyable experience. The version I listened to was read by Juliet Stevenson (Mrs. Elton in the 1996 Emma movie starting Gwyneth Paltrow). Ms. Stevenson had a nice British accent and was able to put a unique voice to the different characters.

What is Persuasion about? Persuasion is the story of Anne Eliot. Anne is the middle of three daughters of Sir Walter Eliot. Always overlooked in her family, Anne is a quiet woman, with great sensibility. Eight years previous to the start of the novel, Anne met and fell in love with a young naval officer, Frederick Wentworth. She became engaged to him, but was persuaded to break off the engagement by her friend Lady Russell who felt that the penniless Wentworth was not good enough for Anne. Now eight years later, Captain Wentworth is back in the neighborhood, rich and looking for a bride. To add insult to injury, his sister and her husband, Admiral Croft, are renting Anne’s family estate, Kellynch Hall. Anne’s father, Sir Walter had been forced to “retrench” and rent out his family estate and move to Bath because of his inability to live within his means.

Anne’s sister Mary is married to a young local gentlemen, Charles Musgrove. Anne is forced to witness Captain Wentworth’s flirtation with Mary’s young sister-in-laws Louisa and Henrietta, while she helps Mary with her young sons and “illness.” As the novel progresses, Anne comes into her own and men such as a Captain Benwick and her cousin Mr. William Elliot find her attractive and love her lively mind. Anne only has eyes for Captain Wentworth, and begins to hope that love could bloom between them again.

Listening to Persuasion, I was once again reminded that I love Austen’s characters. They are hilarious and people you could see today on the street or within your own family. It is amazing how people have not really changed in two hundred years. Hearing about the pride of Sir Elliot and Elizabeth, the “illnesses” of Mary, and the general annoyances of every day family living, it made me realize that life as we know it has not really changed. We may now blog about books or text message our friends, but we are still annoyed by a person who thinks they are better than everyone else or another person that constantly talks about their illnesses that don’t seem to exist. I think that one of the reasons that Austen is so beloved is that she was able to capture the essence of personalities that does not change over time. She also had a great wit that makes these characterizations extremely funny, even after two-hundred years.

I think the major reason that I love Persuasion so much is that I LOVE Captain Wentworth’s letter to Anne and the ending of the novel. To read about poor Anne and being thought of as “on the shelf” at 27 to have a second chance at a relationship with her one great love is so romantic and uplifting. Who cannot read the following letter and not think it is romantic?

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. 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. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in


I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”

To have a deep and what you think is unreciprocated love for someone, and then to receive a letter like that . . . wow!! I love the ending of this novel. I like how unlike the 1995 and 2007 movies, it goes into details about how they get together and how all of the main characters fates are tied up.

Persuasion is my fourth item for The Classics Challenge and my third item for the Everything Austen Challenge II. I’m next going to listen to Northanger Abbey!

Audiobook Source: The Kewaunee Public Library


  1. Wonderful review, Laura! I stopped by earlier but I did not have the time to read every word until now. You've persuaded me that I must read or watch or listen to Persuasion.

  2. This is perhaps the way I should do Austen. I love audio! Great thoughts here!

  3. I listened to this audio book for the Everything Austen Challenge, also. Isn't it wonderful! I just loved how Stevenson characterized Mary Musgrove! And she made me cry when she read the passage when Captain Harville is telling Anne about the miniature of Captain Benwick made for his sister Fanny. "Poor Fanny!" I really love that letter, too. I was in the car when I was listening to it, and I was on the edge of my seat, gripping the steering wheel.

  4. Persuasion is like a more mature P&P -- wonderful! And that letter, be-still my heart. Great review.

  5. I can't decide if I like this one or P&P better. I'll probably have to reread them both to decide. I love Wentworth's letter. I made my hubby watch that part of the movie :)