Why Persuasion is my favourite JA novel // A Guest Post by Rachel

Rachel - otherwise known as Hamlette for most people - is here with a guest post for you all! She blogs regularly at her book blog and her movies-and-other-stuff blog; I always enjoy what she writes. :-) Thank you so much for writing for me, Rachel!

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My favorite Jane Austen novel is Persuasion, and has been since I first read it as a teen.  I'd previously read three of her other books, but I didn't love any of them, and I was starting to wonder why I didn't understand how Jane Austen was awesome.  Then I got to Persuasion, somewhere around the age of 18, and I understood at last.   I loved the characters, the themes, the overall story -- but mostly Anne Elliot herself.

Anne's problems stem from being too agreeable and too helpful, and since those are traits I actually value, I instantly wanted to befriend her, fictionally speaking.  And wanting to be fictional friends with characters is a pretty big thing for me -- it's what makes me love a book versus just liking it.  When you add in a guy like Captain Frederick Wentworth, who has spent all these years trying to stop loving Anne and failing utterly... well, it's almost impossible for this to not be my favorite.


Like I said, the characters aren't all that draws me to Persuasion.  I also love the themes Austen explores, themes like second chances, duty versus desire, and the importance of understanding one's self.  And I'm especially fond of how Austen explores the idea that it's far more dangerous to persuade yourself of something untrue than to allow others to persuade you.


For years, I had assumed the title referred to Anne Elliot allowing Lady Russell to persuade her not to marry Frederick Wentworth. But after my most recent re-read, I've realized it refers more to how Anne and Wentworth both persuaded themselves regarding that previous relationship.  Anne persuaded herself that she was acting for Wentworth's good when she gave him up, that their marriage would have damaged his career.  Wentworth, angry and heartbroken, persuaded himself that Anne was weak and timid.  He then spent eight years persuading himself he had forgotten her, only to discover that he could neither stop loving her nor forget her.  

If Anne and Captain Wentworth had not worked so hard to delude themselves, perhaps they could have spent the previous eight years happily together, rather than lonely and apart.  On the other hand, over those years they had both learned what life alone was like, and now will very likely value being together all the more.  Either way, I love their story and learn something new from Persuasion every time I re-read it.


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What do you think of Persuasion?

Thanks, Hamlette!

29 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this post - despite not really enjoying Persuasion *too* much. I also enjoyed adding the pictures. :-D I hope you like them! :-)

    " On the other hand, over those years they had both learned what life alone was like, and now will very likely value being together all the more." I LOVE that.

    Loved this!

    ~ Naomi

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    1. I did like the pictures! Especially since you added some from both the '95 and '07 -- I really like the '95 so much, and am growing to like the '07 a great deal too. But neither of them come close to being as good as the book.

      I think Persuasion is considerably less sparkly than most of Austen's other books, and less funny overall. It has a contemplativeness and seriousness that I really relate to (even though it's her acidic humor that I love so much in her other books, and there's a lot of pointing-out-absurdity here too, but in a more resigned way or something).

      Thanks so much for asking me to guest post! I really enjoyed sitting down and thinking over why I like Persuasion so well :-)

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  2. "When you add in a guy like Captain Frederick Wentworth, who has spent all these years trying to stop loving Anne and failing utterly... well, it's almost impossible for this to not be my favorite." YES! And I love love love it!!!!!! But you knew that already.... ;D

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    1. Heidi, yes, I did know that :-) I love it about you!

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  3. Great post! While this is not my favorite novel, I really liked how you pointed out how if Anne and Captain Wentworth hadn't persuaded themselves that they didn't care for each other, they could have been happy together those eight years, rather than lonely and apart. I've always thought it soooo sad that Anne could actually let herself be persuaded in one of THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISIONS OF HER LIFE. Anne's not my favorite heroine. I do rather like Captain Wentworth though :P

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    1. Rosie, I agree that it was sad Anne let herself be persuaded by Lady Russell to give Frederick up, but she was being obedient and respectful, and I honor her reasons for doing so. As a very young woman, she was doing right to be guided by the woman who was basically her mother. It's Lady Russell I get upset with. Meddlesome and didactic woman! :-)

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  4. Lovely post, Hamlette! Persuasion has always been my favorite JA novel, too, despite that fact that it contains neither my favorite heroine (Fanny Price) nor my favorite hero (Colonel Brandon). I think that's due to the fact that Anne and Wentworth are my favorite Austen COUPLE--even though neither is my favorite character taken separately. Neither of them are perfect and they've both made some big mistakes, but they complement each other's strengths and weaknesses so beautifully. And apart from that, they're just so SWEET. I love them.

    Plus, the writing in Persuasion is just PHENOMENAL. I honestly think it may be JA's single most brilliant novel (followed by Emma, followed by Mansfield Park, and then I don't know what comes after that). It has such awesome scenery and atmosphere and characters and . . . yeah. I love it.

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    1. Jessica, I really love the writing in it too -- Austen has learned to be concise by that point, and everything -- everything! -- moves the plot forward and pushes the characters to grow. There's nothing extraneous -- it's astounding.

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    2. Exactly! That's a big reason why I love it so much--her "craft" has matured SO much by this point that the book is basically perfect. You couldn't improve it if you tried. And I love how it's got such a contemplative and mellow and peaceful tone, like you were saying to Naomi. It makes me happy, in a way, to know that this was JA's last complete book before she died. Because it's just soooooooooo beautiful and inspiring. Way to go out on a high note, huh? :)

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    3. Jessica, that's a good way of putting it! Going out on a high note :-) That's a much more cheerful way to look at it than "imagine what else she could have written if she had but lived." Thanks!

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  5. Anne Elliot is one of my very favorite Austen heroines! Now I need to re-read Persuasion!

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    1. Lois, I just reread it earlier this year, but writing this made me want to reread it again. Instead, I'm going to try to find time to watch one of the movies, as my TBR pile is currently horrible.

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  6. Intriguing read Hamlette! I am slowly learning to appreciate Persuasion. I can't say I have ever thought of it as a favorite. However, I chose to use one of its scenes on my blog for a post for the Austen filled week.

    You can read it here: http://writeoncordy.blogspot.com/2015/11/persuasion-forgotten-scene.html

    Naomi, thanks again for this Austen filled week!

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    1. Thanks, Cordy! I'm happy to hear you're learning to appreciate it :-) It's not as famous as P&P, S&S, and Emma, so I'm always excited to bring it some more attention. I'll try to read your post soon :-) Sounds interesting!

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  7. I completely agree, I have always thought I could be friends with Anne. I think Persuasion is a more mature novel. Maybe the themes you mentioned of second chances and duty versus desire appeal to a slightly older audience? I think Austen does such a good job of portraying an appealing heroine who made a poor decision for all the "right" reasons. On the surface it is just a romantic story but underneath there is such an understanding of human character.

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    1. Jennifer, thank you! I think maybe you're right, that often the idea of "second chances" is more interesting to someone farther along in life, and maybe that of "duty" too. I like how you put that: Anne made a poor decision for all the right reasons. Exactly! And what a believable, realistic, relatable situation, don't you think?

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  8. Rachel, what an awesome blog post! Persuasion is my absolute favorite of Jane Austen's novels, just like you. It's funny how everyone loves all of the others and Persuasion usually gets pushed aside, but I find it the most real of all the novels, simply because, like you, I could relate so strongly to Anne's character. She is such a delight, so gentle and compassionate, and the themes of this book are so beautiful and so true to life. Thanks for a great post, and thanks, Naomi, for having her guest post for you!

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    1. Carissa, thanks! I didn't realize it was your favorite too! That's very cool :-) I also sometimes feel like Persuasion gets pushed aside, or ignored a bit -- kind of like Anne Elliot herself :-o

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  9. I do very much like Persuasion! As others have mentioned it feels more mature in it's themes and characters and is appreciated more as a reader gets older and has more experience of life. It's interesting and cool that it was your favorite as a teenager. Do you think why you love it has changed over the years? Anne and Wentworth's relationship is definitely one of if not the most complex and romantic of Austen's!

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    1. Stephanie, that's an interesting question! I think my initial reasons for loving it have not changed, but deepened and multiplied. Initially I liked it because I liked Anne, because I was happy she got a second chance at love. And because I liked Captain Wentworth (I was kind of on a British Navy kick the first time I read it). All of that still holds true, but now I also love it for the writing itself, for the deeper themes Austen explores through it. Make sense?

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  10. Sorry I'm so late on this, but I just had to say, this was very well written, Hamlette! Excellent! I like what you said about the whole persuasion thing. You're so right, it went a lot further than Lady Russell's initial persuasions. I'd never really thought about it that way before, but that was a very good point. Thank you for your contribution to the Jane Austen Week!

    ~Miss March

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    1. Thanks, Miss March! So glad you enjoyed it, and even found something new to think about :-)

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  11. Ohh, everyone's praise of Persuasion is wearing me down. I. Need. This Book. I should have ordered it on Amazon today rather than North and South (which is another favorite I'm dyyying to read.).
    Next order. I promise myself.
    Oh wow. I really liked your thoughts on what the title means. I always thought what you previously did, but your new view of it is way better! I love the depth you can always find in classics like these. There's so much to discover!

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    1. Oh dear, Natalie, now I worry that I've overhyped you and it won't live up to your expectations :-(

      If it's any encouragement at all, it's rather short!

      And thanks, I really love delving inside books to get at their inner workings.

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    2. Hamlette,
      Oh, no, please don't worry on that account. :) I've seen 2 movie versions and love them both-I'm sure I'll love the book even more. After all the book is usually always better than the movie. :)

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    3. Oh, good, Natalie :-) You have put my mind at ease. The book is definitely better than both movie versions I have seen!

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  12. I love Persuasion, I read it for the first time recently and I very much enjoyed it. What I like about it is that it's a but different to a lot of stories. Instead of meeting and falling in love, the hero and heroine already have a past knowledge and memories of each other so it plays out differently to first impressions kind of thing.
    I loved spotting the word persuasion throughout the book, and I guess the theme is persuasion in general how they allowed themselves to be persuaded and persuaded themselves....
    I really liked it :)

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    1. Emily, I'm glad you enjoyed it! I also like the fact that the book starts out sort of in the middle of their love story, or in between the two halves of it. Much different than the girl-meets-an-interesting-stranger occurrences that are much more common.

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