This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I have to confess that many books have changed my life. Persuasion by Jane Austen is one of them. I read it in my late teens, when I was going through my nineteenth-century literature phase (which has never really ended, to be fair). According to my English teacher at the time, it was a very bad idea to believe any of these books – you could either end up with a psychopath like Heathcliff, or spend your life waiting for someone like Mr. Darcy.
Persuasion was different; a quiet, truthful love story which, in its slow unfolding, was a revelation to me. The heroine is Anne Elliot. Life has passed her by, and she is resigned to being a dutiful daughter and aunt, unappreciated and hardly noticed by anyone. When Captain Wentworth, a suitor she was once persuaded to reject, returns unexpectedly to her life, she believes he will have forgotten her long ago. At first, it seems he has – but as the novel progresses – with one or two twists and turns, of course – we begin to realize that the Captain has never forgotten Anne, despite his intention to.Persuasion was Jane Austen's last completed novel. Like her other works, it's a love story – but it feels rooted in the real world. In the pathos of Anne's life at the beginning of the book and in the depiction of love, mislaid in youth and rediscovered in maturity, there is a palpable sense of the author's experience. It is about the reality of love, often understated and expressed through the smallest gesture. We first suspect Wentworth still cares for Anne when he notices she is tired and helps her into a carriage, without saying anything to her. It may not be the high drama of Mr. Rochester or Heathcliff, but I still remember being incredibly moved when I read it. I instinctively felt Jane Austen was telling me something important. You can almost hear her voice saying: pick someone like him. Her writing is sharp, clear-sighted, but ultimately tender, and to me, it reads like a love letter to some mystery man, as well as a novel. I like to think that Jane Austen gave herself, in Persuasion, the gift of a happy ending.