Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen’s most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne’s family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?
This is one of my favorite novels of all time – so much so that I read it every year! What’s interesting and most captivating about this novel, especially as I read it as I get older, is that its heroine, Anne, is older (27 years), than Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet and Emma, which makes the story and Anne more relatable.
With every read, the question of whether Anne and Captain Wentworth will get together – one by finally gaining the courage to go against her family and marry for love, and the other finally letting go of their hurt and resentment and acknowledging that their true love is still the one from 9 years ago – captivates, and keeps me in suspense, even though I know exactly how it will end.
The story is not just a love story, but also a criticism of superficial social norms, classes, and values. Interestingly, the themes Austen discusses – family relationships, strict social classes, value placed on wealth and prestige – are relevant, which begs the question, why haven’t we evolved more since Austen’s day?
So, in a nutshell, this is a lovely love story – an adult love story – of yearning, comedy, sarcasm, missed opportunities, highly annoying characters (family members in particular), and Austen’s supreme irony!
Love, love this novel, and if you haven’t read any Austen yet, this is the one to begin with 🙂
P.S. There are two excellent films based on Austen’s classic:
Persuasion (2007) with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones